Note to reader: I started writing this post on 1 September 2018. Here I am, a month later still scrambling to organise my thoughts. Flowers have bloomed, babies were born, people have died, candles were lit, new roads were built, storms wrecked cities, the drought continues to ruin lives and the calendar is three months away from being put away. I’m still here, in the hope of finishing this piece, a month too late. The title remains, for dramatic effect.
Transitioning between finishing my Master’s degree and trying to bridge the gap between my personal and professional life, I’ve been thinking about all the things I hope to do in the future. It’s bittersweet, having that list in your diary that gives you hope for a tomorrow to look forward to but also presents a daunting list screaming for your attention. These past few weeks, I have been trying to gain perspective on where I am and where I’d like to be. I started with trying to write an optimistic answer to a favourite interview question, “where do you want to be in five years?”. I’ve found myself writing varied versions of what I would like to think is an ideal answer to that question. Every so often it changes with what side of the bed I’ve woken up on. Consequently, where I want to be in five years influences where I am today. It influences every action, every emotion, every relationship.
To be in an existential crisis can feel very daunting and confronting. Recently, I found myself questioning the hope for tomorrow. What if we never reach the future? What if our future and everything it entails is the present and that is all that will ever exist? My boyfriend often talks about the life he envisions for our 80s. It’s adorable to think that someone would do everything they could today to promise you a beautiful tomorrow. What about our terrible twenties and terrific thirties and frightful forties or the fantastic fifties?
Better an oops than a what if.
Days go by until it’s months and then another year and all of these plans for the future are nothing but plans yet to be met. Tomorrow’s plans turn into yesterday’s checklists and I worry we will never reach the future. I worry so much about this beautiful envisioned future that I sometimes live my life in the absence of feeling aware about my existence. Why are such big parts of our lives planned around the effects they might have on an unknown future? Like, where you study, who you love, where you work, your friendships, the house you live in, the doctor you visit, the food you eat, the clothes you wear and so on. I am scared of focusing my every day on a prosperous future that might never come, at least not with any certainty. Each present-day action is aimed at an inaccessible future. It is aimed at perceived satisfaction in an uncertain tomorrow rather than today’s more definite accomplishment, the good, the bad and the ugly. Our happiness today relies mostly on whether or not we have maximised the likelihood of being happy in the future. Whether it’s that degree you pursue in the hope of a better job or the boss you try to impress for a promotion in the future or the money you save so you can buy the house you dreamed of and so on.
I want to be able to have a future that aligns with my values, dreams and conditions, without worrying about alternate possibilities and others’ expectations. I hate that I’d rather spend time scrolling through feeds and screens than dwell on my existence and live with lucid awareness. I hate that I’d rather compare who I am with who the world expects me to be than with my own potential. I hate that I choose a foggy tomorrow instead of living my life with purpose and clarity for today.
It is a tough choice to make. We grow up with the notion that today is an investment for tomorrow and just like that, we spend yesterday’s tomorrow worrying about the day after’s yesterday. And I am very aware that it is unwise to live today in disregard of tomorrow. Does it mean you sacrifice on the present in the hope of an uncertain but satisfying future? I don’t want to live without care or ambition. I’ll do everything I can to ensure that my future isn’t ambiguous, without hope and direction but I would also like to enjoy the present wholeheartedly.
I want a secure future and I love my plans but I also want big parts of tomorrow to surprise me. That’s where I want to be in five years — in an unknown yet happy place — I’ll take up jobs that are challenging and not simply secure. I’ll do what I love and love what I do. I’ll love without condition and fear. I’ll trust people more. I’ll stop looking at the days on the calendar as an indication of anything. I’ll stop making unrealistic resolutions. I’ll stop and pray because it gives me a sense of peace. I’ll let myself feel things that make my heart race. I’ll challenge myself to do things that make my head spin. I’ll live a little on the edge. I’ll enjoy the discomfort of every bend in the road. I’ll follow the map and everywhere it leads. I’ll listen to my heart over my constantly racing mind. I’ll count my oops in the hope of outnumbering my what-ifs. I’ll embrace the blows and defeats. I’ll celebrate every achievement. I’ll let myself grow. I’ll pay attention to the things that keep me alive. I’ll address the things that could’ve driven me off the cliff. I’ll pay attention to the people that make my heart smile. I’ll treasure the situations that changed my life.
I will accept the butterflies in my heart and the bees in my brain and the goosebumps on my skin.
Wake me up when September ends so I can stop worrying about the future I might never have, and start living in and for the present I know I have. Wake me up when September ends so I can look forward to the beautiful future I will have because I chose to make the present just as lucid and lovely.