The Institut Sainte-Marie’s residency at BOZAR in February 2020. Their installation is on display as part of the Next Generation, Please! exhibition from 29 September to 1 November.

Repairing The Future: Young people’s letters to their future selves

Charlotte Thys

In keeping with the Repairing the Future interview series, BOZAR strives to open new perspectives for a future world by giving scientists, artists and thinkers from different fields, an opportunity to speak. Concurrently wishing to hear from young generations, we worked with several participants in the Next Generation, Please! citizen project. The Brussels 16 to 21-year-olds shared their vision for the future through letters they wrote to their future selves, 20, 30, or 40 years from now.

Charlotte Thys is a 21-year-old student in her final year at Institut Sainte-Marie, where she is studying to become an interior design assistant. She participated in the 2019-2020 Next Generation, Please! edition as part of the ‘All Over’ project.


Hey there! As you read this letter, I’m in my pyjamas, writing on Jimmy’s couch. My hair is dishevelled and the apartment is a mess. You would likely say that once I’m done writing, I need to muster up the courage and get this place cleaned up! I hope that 20 years from now you’ve got better at tidying up after yourself, you lazybones!

Twenty years ago, I sat down to write you a letter. To tell you the truth, I’ve been racking my brain for what to write and have started over twenty times at least. Writing to one’s future self isn’t that easy. I don’t even know what my life will look like in 7 months, let alone 20 years. You can only imagine how hard this is! When you read this letter, it will be July 27, 2040, you’ll be 42 years old… Charlotte, frankly, I don’t know what your life will be like and where you’ll be when you read this letter, but I do know what your life is like now.

42 years old, can you imagine? These days it feels so far away. I get a dizzying sensation just thinking about it. You know the feeling I’m referring to; when you get goosebumps and feel sick to your stomach.

And yet, it feels like it could be tomorrow… You know how quickly time flies.

I also want to tell you to remember what makes you happy, and not to give up when difficulties come your way. And to ask you to make sure that you’ve achieved what you set out to do. If that’s not the case, if you had to give up on some dreams or if you weren’t able to accomplish some of them… promise me you will be smart and strong and continue to move forward. 

With proper strength and conviction, you must remind yourself that any experience is only a failure if we try to blot it out. Even if you fail, hold your head high and learn from your mistakes.

At this very moment, I’m thinking about a big problem that you have today. I hope and wish, for your sake, that you will have learned to trust yourself.

Your 22-year-old young self has this to say: stop doubting your talent, your feelings and who you are. Considering everything that you’ve gone through and everything you have yet to experience, you deserve to be confident in yourself and who you are. Here and now, the 22-year-old young woman that stands before you has taken great risks, each bolder than the one before. Maybe some of them could have been avoided; some may not have been the smartest of moves, but I know that you needed me to do what I did. WE needed it! And even if the risks that I took for both of us were not always sensible, as a result, we were able to live incredible moments. Your risks helped you to grow and to embrace certain values. I can tell you this: your 22-year-old self is proud of your journey so far.

So please, stop doubting your talent, your feelings, who you are and who you will become. You definitely need to stop stressing out for no reason. You distrust yourself way too often. You tell your friends that they can trust you, that they can count on you. Come to think of it, isn’t it somewhat contradictory?

Remind yourself of the knowledge you possess, tell yourself that you’re inquisitive enough to acquire more. You know that life and people are a boundless source of knowledge. You have personality, ambition. Go for it! You don’t need to prove anything to anyone, except maybe to yourself.

Speaking of confidence, I’m going to talk about another topic: love. I don’t know what your current situation is. Now, in any case, the person you are with is great for you. You know what the word Love means and how it feels to love someone. You never thought, never believed, you would experience it one day. I hope that this relationship has helped you to trust and to stop doubting everything. You deserve to be loved, Charlotte! I also hope – I may be young and innocent – that you are still together. I know that you’ve always dreamed of finding true love and being in a serious relationship. I also know that this person is a perfect fit. So, I hope naively and sincerely that the relationship has lasted and that you have helped each other grow.

Now, if the relationship is over, don’t be sad when you think about it; be happy that you experienced true love and new feelings. I feel bad for you if the relationship is over. I’m sure, however, that you’ll be in a new one and that it will be just as long. Don’t give up. You know that each relationship teaches you something new and makes you grow.

Have you become the person that you wanted to be? I hope that you become the best version of yourself; that you still enjoy nights out with your women friends, with Lisa; that you stay a kid at heart and have fun. Do you remember the promise that we made to ourselves? To be responsible but to remain young at heart when it comes to having fun. I hope that you’re proud of the person you’ve become and that you are happy to get up each morning.

Finally, I hope that you’ve been able to travel the world, to countries that you wanted to see. Have you been to Thailand, Africa, Bali, Indonesia, and more? Maybe you went with your future husband or with friends. In any case, I know that you yearned to travel when you were younger but couldn’t afford it. So, I hope that at every chance you could, you jumped on a plane, lived intense adventures and have memories to tell your children and grandchildren.

Speaking about the world, what is it like now? Is the situation catastrophic? Did humankind continue to be selfish and destroy everything to a point of no return? Are women finally considered as equals, do you live in an egalitarian world? Are you one of those people who fights to protect the planet and its magnificent landscapes? Is the world still run on a capitalistic, non-egalitarian system? Are you breathing fresh air as you read this letter or are you living in a post-apocalyptic world? Do you breathe normally, or do you need to wear a mask (an absurdly expensive one) to breathe fresh air?


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