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?)[Prompt by author Jenny Blake for #reverb10]
When I received the prompt in my inbox this morning, I noticed that the prompt contributor is the author of a book called, “Life After College: The Complete Guide to Getting What You Want.” Were resources like that even available when I graduated from college, now 33 years ago?
My college placement office was very forward-thinking, and gave me a copy of the workbook to Richard Bolles’ classic, “What Color is Your Parachute?” It helped, and I enjoyed the process and put the advice to good use. At the time, I had a very specific focus. I was about to be married (just one month after graduation) and move to a new state with my grad-student husband. Career-wise, I knew much more about what I DIDN’T want, than what I DID want.
Fast forward through thirty years of a varied and interesting life. Somehow, I learned to let my good memories and peak experiences be the foundation of my personhood and self-image, rather than the failures and disappointments. I’ve learned that if you are committed to showing up every day to live your life, you are signing up for the whole enchilada. I’ve also learned that I exhausted myself and my relationships by trying to fit to what I thought other people wanted from me. When I had a sense of who I wanted to BE, it seems that the world has shaped itself around me.
Ten years ago, I was standing on the threshold of the most tumultuous two years of my life. I knew that change was coming, because I could see it like the dawn. The culmination of that period would involve leaving a job, leaving a marriage, losing a parent, and letting go of my children who were beginning to leave the nest. But I remember around that time that I made a sort of vow to myself. I didn’t want to wake up in ten years and say, “What the hell have I done with my life?” I knew that I was dying — if not physically, then certainly emotionally and spiritually. I made up my mind to take a leap and swim for my life. So, if I were to write a note or give advice to myself back then, I would say, “You are doing the right thing. Don’t expect it to be easy, but do what it takes. You will be glad.”
As I look toward the next five years, I expect to be doing pretty much what I’m doing now — only better. Continual improvement in every domain. Open to possibilities and wonderful surprises. If I know the essence of what I want, I can be pretty flexible and recognize it when it shows up in a different guise than I expected. The advice I’d give myself is “You are doing the right thing. Don’t expect it to be easy, but do what it takes. You will be glad.”