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Monday, April 7, 2014

Canadian Students Receive Letters From The Past

Bruce Farrer, a Canadian teacher, has begun sending his former students letters they wrote to themselves as children. (Bruce Farrer)

Bruce Farrer, a Canadian teacher, has begun sending his former students letters they wrote to themselves as children. (Bruce Farrer)

What would you say if you had the chance to talk to the future version of you — the you living 15 or 20 or 25 years from now?

Bruce Farrer

Bruce Farrer

For a group of adults, that chance has become reality.

And for that, they have 72-year-old Bruce Farrer of Qu’Appelle, Saskatchewan to thank.

He was their middle school teacher, and decades ago, assigned them a very meaningful essay: write a 10-page letter to your future self.

The students then had a choice of whether they wanted the letters mailed in 15, 20 or 25 years. They could also decide whether Farrer could read the letter — or whether it was going to be too personal for his eyes. Most of the kids handed in the assignment and forgot about it. Until the letters started to arrive.

Here & Now’s Robin Young speaks to Farrer and his former student, Joel Cyr, about the letters project.

Joel Cyr with the letter he wrote to himself 15 years ago. (Joel Cyr)

Joel Cyr with the letter he wrote to himself 15 years ago. (Joel Cyr)

Cyr says he was excited to receive the letter from his past.

“I thought I remembered what was going to be in there, but there’s a lot more in there than I actually realized,” Cyr said. “I just really wanted to see what my mind was like, what I thought of the world at that time.”

Farrer said most of the letters had common teenage themes.

“A lot of the students analyzed each other, and tried to say what kind of things they’d end up doing or being,” Farrer said. “I had one girl who told me it took her two days to decide to open the letter … I think some of them are embarrassed by how immature they were.”

When asked what he’d say now, as an adult, to his 14-year-old self, Cyr says he’d tell himself not to take high school so seriously.

“The biggest thing I’d say is a lot of the stuff that goes on in high school doesn’t matter as much,” Cyr said. “It [did] influence who I became, but it [didn’t] define who I became.”

The process of sending out the letters can also be sad for Farrer. Some of his students have died. He recalls tracking down one such student this past year.

“It was such a nice letter: she had little notes from her friends, it was almost like a time capsule for her,” Farrer said. “But I think it would bring comfort to her family to have that part of her there.”

Cyr says he’s grateful that Farrer saved his students’ letters so diligently.

“If I look at all of my other high school assignments, I don’t think I’d be able to find any one of them,” Cyr said. “This is something that he was able to save from our past … it’s something that I keep forever.”

Guests

  • Bruce Farrer, retired teacher at Bert Fox Community High School.
  • Joel Cyr, Farrer’s former student and a photographer.

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