using the future

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

let's touch upon the past.

time spent on the couch, a pint of mint chocolate chip ice cream balanced between book pages. in this instance, she is in a John Green phase, ripping through Paper Towns and Looking for Alaska.

and she is devouring Looking for Alaska, because in more ways than one, she wants to be Alaska. but she is not that girl, because Alaska does what she wants without worrying. and this Olivia, she is worried. she is so worried about her grades and her best friends and her hair (why was that always a constant worry). and she is so worried about the future.

I have always been worried about the future. 

I cannot think of a time in my life where I was not planning a future out in my head, clipping magazine pictures to create a journal of my dreams, googling college classes before I was out of junior high school. I've always been a planner, planning for the future, planning to be on the correct path.

this future planning was always an excited worry. a "wait until I can get a cottage on the edge of the sea" worry, or a "wait until I can have a rose garden in England" worry.

and the point is, I was always waiting. I was planning and waiting on the future, not acknowledging the present.

this is often what I do. I get through my homework and complete my reading and go to bed on time and wake up early and get ready for the day and repeat. I do all of this quickly, completing the path I planned to be on, just waiting for the future.

just waiting.

so fourteen year-old olivia is sitting on the couch, eating baby spoonfuls of ice cream, and she reads John Green's words:

"You spend your whole life stuck in the labyrinth, thinking about how you'll escape it one day, and how awesome it will be, and imagining that future keeps you going, but you never do it. You just use the future to escape the present.”

and she gets it.

"You just use the future to escape the present."

and she realizes she does this. but she doesn't understand the wrongness.

she doesn't understand that obsessive idealization of the future will someday lead her to a discontent of the present.

imagining is fun. I imagine I'll live in the english countryside, with a full garden to tend, with a fireplace in my living room. I imagine I'll spend my days hiking the tallest mountains, climbing the steepest trees, dipping my toes in the freshest river water. I imagine I'll walk through the streets of a city, feeling a loneliness because I am alone, yet feeling a community of busyness. I imagine I'll have a comfortable bed with a hand stitched quilt and flat, down pillows. I image all of this, at different times, at different moments.

but I can't use the future to get out of the present.

the future is not something to be used, to be snatched up and morphed into changing desires. the future is something unknown, something every-changing, something that, to quote my mother, "you just never know."

and so this is my challenge: to stop using the future.

to embrace whatever my future may be.


  1. This is so relevant and painful (in the best way) to read. I always thought I was the only one too busy imagining tomorrow to be in the moment. Great piece!