If you had the chance to look into your future, would you take a peek?
I’ve always prided myself to be a person with a plan. At a certain age I would have graduated, I would have seen places I always wanted to travel to, I would have become the person I dreamed of becoming. I would have figured out how to manage this crazy little thing called life.
Needless to say, it didn’t pan out this way.
Even though I am currently working towards a PhD, when my peers are still figuring out what to study or do with their lives, something people don’t get tired to mention, life feels like a high-speed train to me. And I have absolutely no clue where this train will end, lest where it’ll stop next. Navigating this vehicle, my life, that is, feels like a constant high risk investment. If I choose to turn left, what consequences will it bring with it? – and then later – would right have been the right, the less risky option?
Heck, I wrote a whole novel about a character who couldn’t decide what to do and what she wanted. Clearly, this character shares a lot of my character traits. However, I am by no means the only person in the world who feels this way. That I am sure of. On the contrary, I believe almost every single human being feels lost most of their life. Sure, there are those who seem to have it all figured out, but even they need to deal with the odd plot hole or unexpected plot twist sometimes.
And it’s this crucial aspect of life which defines us or shows our true selves – how do we deal with the uncertainty of life?
Thinking of the future makes me feel anxious sometimes, simply because it’s such a fickle idea. I want to picture myself to be happy in the future, and healthy, and so should my family and friends. But it is just an illusion created by my subconscious to convince me to keep living and trying to figure out on the go how to turn illusion into reality.
Despite believing that I am the one to create my future, life depends on so many more voices than my own. I constantly remind myself of what my family or friends expect me to achieve and my potential and how to meet their expectations. Expectations are for naught. Deep down we all know this to be true. And still we try to please others, want others to like us, want them to be proud of us. So, thinking of a future not only involves us and how we would feel about it, but also whether it would fit into the perception that others have about us. These expectations are not the same for everybody. Intersectional theory points out that expectations differ according to your (chosen) gender, class, ethnicity, religion, disabilities, and so many more factors. We don’t have it easy. But certainly, some have it easier than others.
I am aware that I am privileged, at least to some extent. I couldn’t just get whatever I wanted. But I knew that if I worked hard and with the help of my family, I could manage to achieve my dreams, somehow. Because I hadn’t had to deal with endless adversities. It did however limit my expectations towards housing standards.
But society puts certain expectations on you. Regardless of the before mentioned additional factors, you need to deliver. You need to educate yourself, you need to reach your fullest potential, you need to contribute to society, you need to meet your fair share of workload. You need to be yet another puzzle piece that finds its place.
What if I don’t want to be just another puzzle piece, though? What if I want to define my life on my own terms? Delineating from this path feels scary but liberating.
I asked my peers at tba* what they would do if they had the chance to look at their future selves. And, to my surprise, the answers were just as ambiguous as my standing towards the topic.
While some would look at their future, just to see whether they would end up in a positive scenario, others shied away from the idea because they wouldn’t want to know what’s going to happen to them. Wouldn’t you debate every option that follows next? What if choosing wrong once, would change your whole future? And what if that future wasn’t what you imagined it to be like? It would scare you and every decision you make could put you in a serious dilemma. Because how do you change the future if you only see a certain moment now?
It dawned on me that not knowing what’s going to happen tomorrow, next week, in ten years time, is also quite liberating. Because it means freedom to experience life as it plays out, to make mistakes and learn from them. It means choosing freely without the need to fulfil a certain destiny, to follow a certain path for a temporary feeling of safety.
Maria was listening to “Sober Up” by AJR and Rivers Cuomo while writing this article.