I’m feeling pensive this evening so I wanted to capture something that I’ve been thinking about recently.
I keep thinking about these imaginary ticking clocks counting up from several different moments of my life, each significant in that they represent a change in direction or job or location or relationship. I think about these clocks more often than I’d like. They feel like a distraction, giving me something to ruminate over meaninglessly and there is just nothing positive about them. Not even for the clocks that some might consider to be a measure of success, such as the duration of time spent working for a particular company, do I feel grateful or accomplished that they have ticked as many times as they have.
I think this is the same feeling I get when I think about, for example, how long it’s been since I first started university or perhaps how much time has elapsed since graduation day.
I find myself wondering what it is that makes these time periods feel so unaccomplished - wasted even. I wonder to myself, “what should I have done?” to make this feeling go away and what do I have to start doing to make sure I don’t feel this way in the future.
Thinking about the past is well known to encourage depressive moods and suppress positivity. I find it either makes me feel sad because I miss the good times, or because in between the good times I was doing all this other pointless stuff like washing dishes or hoovering. In other words, the good times are in the past and apart from those, I feel unaccomplished.
In moments like this, I find it useful to think from the perspective of my future self. It’s tempting to look back and judge past actions but the past cannot be changed, whereas my future is entirely within my control! It’s a simple frame of mind to enter, and I find it empowering and surprisingly calming. From this perspective I ask questions such as “What would Future Luke think if I did X tomorrow? Would he be pleased? Satisfied? Accomplished, maybe? Happy, even? Would he be kicking himself if he hadn’t done X?” Even before I answer these sorts of questions, I find myself reflecting on my own identity in the most positive light. I imagine my future self is similar to my current self but with a few more experiences and hopefully a greater sense of achievement, satisfaction and happiness. It won’t be some fantastical journey for me to reach my future self, but whatever direction I take, I’d like to be glad that I tried to get there in a way that I can look back on and feel grateful for the journey.
For example, I’ve been thinking a lot recently about traveling abroad for a bit for work and probably some down time too. But the objective of this would be to see and experience places that are so totally out of my current bubble of comfort that I won’t want to come back. I fall more and more in love with this idea every week and I feel like this is the perfect time to throw caution to the wind and just GO.
But as I start to think how I will go about doing this and how completely different my life will be, I can’t help but worry. I worry that I won’t be able to find a job or get a VISA or find a place to live or find friends or speak the language or integrate and I retreat from the idea and I stop planning.
But then I think, “What would my future self think if I continued exactly as I am for the next two years?”
By that time I’ll be almost 28, and maybe I’ll have changed jobs, maybe I’ll have moved to another city in the UK, maybe I’ll have put down a deposit on a place of my own. But if I get to that point and think back to this moment, I can’t imagine a single future version of myself that would think, “I was right to say no”. “I was right to stay exactly where I had been” is something I don’t think I would say in two years time.
This isn’t to say I’ve never taken time to stabilise a bit and take my time figuring stuff out before making grand changes to my life. Two years ago I was considering a similar move but my mum persuaded me to take a moment and stay in London and just live for a bit. And so I did and it gave me time to reflect about what I want next and what I value and whether I want to settle and what it would mean to me to move away for a bit.
This time has given me a lot of space to think about my future self and what I want to look back on, even if it’s only looking back on the next two or three years. Right now I want to be looking back on adventure and chaos and raw excitement but also growth and reflection and maybe companionship.
And even if it doesn’t feel like an accomplishment in itself, I can at least look back and feel like I have accomplished choosing the unpredictable and taking a leap of faith.
Anyway, those ticking clocks aren’t really mine. In a way they’re comparisons that I draw with other people and so are pretty meaningless.
And I’m certain my future self would be grateful if I spent less time imagining clocks and more time planning my next adventure.