I’m a firm believer that time is a construct. Nonetheless, it is clear that if a large group of people (most people, really) operate on a belief in a certain doctrine (time). Thus, it becomes real. It is a reality. So, whatever my ideas are about the concept of time, it is indeed real if enough people render it their reality.
For me, it is something that I have always struggled with. In particular, the concept of the future. The past, which is captured in memories – i.e. shadows of something that was, and does not exist anymore – has made a little more sense to me. I’ve always had a lot of trouble imagining a future for myself. It’s seemed like a futile task, and perhaps in many ways, it has been and is. To me, it is only the present that exists. It is only the present that really makes sense.
The confusing thing is, though, that what we do right now seems to push the direction of what happens next. Further, most people do not live in the current moment, and instead demand some future-driven thinking. It is, therefore, necessary for me to also adopt this perspective if I want to exist within a community of people. Which I do! I like people.
The future has always seemed completely mundane to me. On account of having absolutely no future plan, and a bleak, blank slate when imagining further ahead than a few months, I have found myself grappling for answers when people ask me, ‘what next?’. If I were to be honest with them, and described the sense of boredom, blankness and perhaps dread / hopelessness that comes over me when I imagine the future, the description was met with a reaction of concern. And confusion, sometimes; my description of the future does not fit in with the way in which I live. In my the offline world, am energetic, quite happy, bubbly, smiley and content.
Indeed, the future has stressed me out a little bit. There are various reasons for this, I think. Plausible explanations include a number of different factors… The time in which I stopped being excited for the future, was at a very young age. Life has really, really improved for me over time. My happiness and contentment, too, has improved in leaps and bounds since turning 18 and leaving home.
At a young age, my parents divorced – messily so – probably giving me a terrible example of adult life. This, perhaps, implicated my future prospects, and influenced the darkness / null-ness when I begun to imagine the future during my teens. I was on scholarship at my first, private school, and then went on to finish my high school years at a select-entry high school. In short, I felt an immense amount of pressure to be successful; this pressure was probably the culmination of my parents, those categorising me as ‘talented’, and the environment in which I was studying – but mostly, myself internalising all of these factors and pressuring myself. What I really wanted to do was firmly grounded in the physical – I loved moving, playing sport, dancing, running, etc. I also liked thinking, sure, and philosophy – but ultimately when it became time to choose my next steps, I fell into studying law as words and writing were what society (grades) deemed me to be good at. Law school was a breeze compared to my fellow students. I skipped class, got into every extra curricular program I applied for, did well in exams; on paper, I was a perfect student.
In practice, thinking about anything after university freaked me out and was ultimately a biiiiig question mark. Sure, I would real off a sentence or two if folks demanded answers from me. When it became to the time near graduation, I could not apply for jobs. I was completely uninterested. Some future paths were interesting, mostly those in the area of social justice, but were to require additional steps that were completely boring.
Thus, I entered a phase of dislocating my sense of identity and confidence from my occupation. I decided that I needed to value myself for myself. Since, I’ve begun to see the beauty in things are they are. This period of time has been (and is) wonderful for many reasons. I feel that my ego has taken a bashing, and is better for it. My way of viewing the world has completely changed. I have begun to see people as people, rather than their profession, or their external presentation. It has created a much greater sense of understanding, empathy, and – I think – a clearer perspective on reality.
And – guess what – my imagination has begun to flourish. For the first time, since my early teens, my imagination is flying here, there and everywhere. I no longer feel locked in! I feel much more free!! It is a work in progress – but I have begun to feel excited about life! I feel that I have (or am, at least) de-conditioning the conditioning that I received throughout my teens, and the pressures that I felt throughout my undergraduate studies.
And guess what?
The future is now exciting!!!!!
This is where I was getting with this whole spiel. Sorry that it took so long.
I mean, the future still does not really exist, but I finally understand why it is that humans become excited about the future. And I finally am able to make some (vague) plans that I actually would like to see come to fruition – rather than plans I spurt out just because I can’t be bothered explaining that I have no interest in imagining a future.
And, it has changed my experience of the present. Everything is so much more clear; I feel focussed, but my mind feels free. I am grateful for the years behind me, for sure. But I wish that for our children, and for fellow humans in general, that we release them from the pressures to live a mundane existence. We can start by creating space for them to think creatively, to imagine and be playful with the present – rather than sticking them in a room to study for hours on end from their mid-teens….
In our lives, I think that it is important to value people as people. By seeing people as people, and valuing them for who they are beneath a title, we change the culture of existence. Of course, there are many other complicated and tricky pressures associated with our existing system (neoliberalism, capitalism) that render this a difficult task. But, as a simple starting point, perhaps we could eradicate the question of ‘what do you do?’.
By starting with this fundamental concept, it places less of an arbitrary and hierarchical categorisation based on folks’ jobs. What we are expected to do seems to often clash with what people really want to do. In my case, I focussed so much on the former that the later was completely erased. It has taken me a solid year and a half of deep soul searching, adventuring and experimenting to vaguely realise what it is that I enjoy. My future hope is that people do what they enjoy, and in a way in which it empowers others to also enjoy life.
I would love to hear about what it is that you enjoy doing: if you’ve got something you’d like to share, I am all ears 🙂