ETA: *Thanks to Chris in NY for catching my original error in the title to this post. I decided to leave it, because perhaps my Future Self has a Council of Elders, or something, who advise her? ‘Tis hard to know, as Future Self isn’t talking
Prompt: Future self. Imagine yourself five years from now. What advice would you give your current self for the year ahead? (Bonus: Write a note to yourself 10 years ago. What would you tell your younger self?)
Maybe I’m superstitious. I mean, I kind of am. The idea of imagining myself five years into the future and then telling Me Now what Future Me thinks I should know seems to involve a lot of potentially dangerous conjecture. I mean, let’s say that I decide Future Me is married with kids. That would probably make Future Me give a whole range of advice for Me Now that would follow a certain set of protocols, if you will. In contrast, what if Future Me is single, and ends up getting a different job and moving to a different city? Clearly that Future Me would tell Me Now some very different things. Or, look: those are two super-awesome potential Future Me scenarios. But what if Future Me gets cancer or loses her job or house or ends up a weirdo recluse with 6 cats? Because that Future Me would probably have still other things she’d like to say to Me Now.
I guess my point is, I don’t know. I can tell you goals that I have for the next five years, or I can tell you my dreams, or the things that I hope to accomplish. But I don’t actually have total control over all of that. I can do my best to make those things happen – unless of course I realize that I don’t want them anymore – but I am not God. And yes, I’m superstitious. What if I choose one of those Future Me types and give myself advice based on that? And then what if that tempts fate and fate decides to give me the great cosmic smack-down, just to show who’s boss? I believe in shit like that, people. So, no. I am not going to assume that I know who or where I’ll be in five years. And I’m certainly not going to pretend to advise Me Now based on the way that I fantasize my life will be in five years. The thought of doing so totally sketches me out.
Now, I can do the “bonus” part of the prompt, though. Me Now would tell 26-year-old-Me the following:
- You will get a tenure-track job and your professional life will work out ok, so seriously: chill. You’re great.
Break up with him. Yes, I know that you think you’re going to live happily ever after with him if you just get through this particular rough patch, and breaking up is a whole lot harder when you made the stupid decision to move in with a person, and don’t you believe in commitment and doesn’t that mean sticking it out, but dude. You are about to waste the next two years being miserable, and you’re going to break up with him anyway. And you’re going to be gunshy for a really long time after that relationship if you let it go on. Break up with him. Like, yesterday.Um, I just realized that this is advice I’d have to give 9-years-ago-Me. Because apparently I can’t do math, even when it relates to something simple, like my age. So really this advice would be “don’t begin a relationship that is going to have you moving in with a loser who doesn’t work for two of the three years you’re together and who decides he wants space at the precise moment that you get your tenure-track job, even if you do think that having a serious boyfriend would offer more stability for writing your dissertation than fucking around, which, incidentally, is not the reason to have a serious relationship and probably is a pretty big sign that you’re not ready for one of those.”
Other than that, I think 26-year-old-Me was sort of great. I mean, aside from being a stressed out freak in a crappy relationship, I managed to keep it together enough to stop myself from being a stressed out freak in a crappy relationship ultimately.
But this is important: No matter how well-meaning Me Now is, the truth is that 26-year-old-Me never would have listened to Me Now. Because the thing about me in the present tense – whether it’s Me Now, Me Ten Years Ago, or the Me I’ll become five years into the future – is that I tend to trust myself in the moment and I tend to think that I know what’s best for myself. I tend to think that even if I make mistakes, that they are my mistakes and they make me who I am. I tend to trust that the mistakes that I make are going to teach me something.
Like this thing that I learned from my mistakes that I didn’t really know 10 years ago. I think now that it’s impossible to predict every possible future thing, and so it’s a whole lot better to focus on immediate things that are within our control than to live so much for the future that we miss out on our present. I’m not interested in advice from Future Self because I believe in Me Now. And Future Self doesn’t want to offer advice because she knows Me Now wouldn’t listen anyway.