The Envelope, Please…

Sealed away for five long years, in the junk drawer among the paper clips, sits one slim scrap of paper in a plain white envelope. I don’t remember where we were when I wrote it, and I don’t remember exactly what it says. But tonight we can finally open it, and replace it with another.

Envelope PLease

Today is our 20th wedding anniversary. Fifteen years ago, on this date, one of us (probably my husband, he’s good about stuff like this) had the idea to write a few five-year predictions, to be placed in an envelope and reopened on our tenth anniversary. Just 15-20 lines, guessing at what our life would be like in five years time. We repeated the process on our tenth anniversary – and so on.

To be clear, these are not goals, or resolutions, they are simply predictions. They include everything from where we will be living [we tend to move around a lot] and what kind of car we’ll be driving, to the length of my hair . On our fifth we guessed correctly that we’d have a child by our tenth, but the “second one on the way” never happened.

We sometimes touch on world or national events to try not to be too narcissistic. Who will be President? Are we still at war?

My husband always predicts his weight. No, I do not care to imagine that one for myself.

On our 14th anniversary, in 2007, we realized that even though we had to wait one more year to open the envelope we had stashed away on our 10th, we could still write new predictions for five years out. It’s become our yearly tradition now – last year we were able to read our predictions from 2007, and wrote new ones that will remain sealed until 2017.

A couple years ago we started placing a photo of the three of us in the envelope. Once the photo is printed, we delete all digital versions, so that the copy stored with our predictions is the only one that exists. It’s like a mini time capsule, reminding us to feel good about how we look now because in just five years, we’ll probably wish we still looked like this.

Along with the photo, we’ve gotten better about recording where we are – literally and more broadly – when we make our predictions. Now we try to include a short blurb about our current status, so that when the envelope is reopened, we can compare how things have changed – because I can’t remember last week, much less five years ago. It reminds us not only of how we spent the evening, but it also establishes the mindset we were in that would cause us to make such assumptions about our future. Most of which turn out to be wrong.

So far, we have not been very good at making accurate predictions – our current average is running at about 48%. It’s amazing what life throws at you in a five-year span that can change your assumed trajectory.

Most of the predictions we reveal tonight will probably be wrong. For one thing, neither of us expected the economy would take a dump, so I’m guessing our situation now is pretty different from what we envisioned. I have a memory of forecasting – quite adamantly – that we would be sitting beachside in Hawaii to read our predictions on our 20th anniversary. We are not there….but, we will be close within a couple of weeks – stateside instead, and with a view of the same ocean. That should get us half a point, for effort.

But it doesn’t matter – it’s not really about getting it right. We have fun seeing how far-sighted we were in our crystal gazing, and how our life has changed in five years. But what I truly love about this tradition is that even if we are wrong, even if the scribbled hopes and expectations on that piece of paper are incorrect, that envelope is its own prediction. It renews our commitment and foretells that we will be together somewhere, for better or worse, to open it and read its contents as a couple. And again, on this anniversary, we will project ourselves together into the future…for at least another five years.


  1. therealityofitis · January 10, 2013

    Truly inspiring!
    Thanks for sharing

  2. Sabatino @ · January 15, 2013

    I love this idea! I’m definitely stealing it to use in my own relationship!

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