A man should learn to detect and watch that gleam of light which flashes across his mind from within, more than the lustre of the firmament of bards and sages. Yet he dismisses without notice his thought, because it is his. – Ralph Waldo Emerson
My favorite quote of all time is Alan Kay: ‘In order to predict the future, you have to invent it.’ I am all about inventing the future. Decide what you want the future to be and make it happen. Because you can. Write about your future now.
(Author: Cindy Gallop)
My future? My future. Just saying it makes me scrunch my eyebrows together until a little crease forms. It’s hard to think about the future, especially when I look at where I am today. I never would have pictured myself being who I am, doing what I do, feeling what I feel. If you would have asked me what my life was going to be like in the future five years ago, I probably would have replied that I would be living in another state, with lots of cats, being a full-time journalist. That didn’t happen – but it’s kind-of-sort-of close.
I have a cat, an apartment, and I write for a living, though it’s website copy instead of news stories. I’m still in Pennsylvania. I still don’t like spaghetti sauce. I think when we invent our futures, we tend to neglect the details. We may all have a general idea of what we want to do. “I want to be a writer.” “I want to be loved.” “I want to be financially secure.” But when it comes down to actually defining what that means, we have a difficult time. In our minds, we have something pictured – but by defining what we imagine, we somehow spark the fear that we’ll disappoint ourselves. So we keep it vague and hope that things will turn out kind-of-sort-of like we planned.
But do things ever REALLY turn out as planned? Think about when you were five. What did you want to be when you grew up? I wanted to be a concert violinist. I have no idea why, but that’s what I decided to write into a Dr. Seuss book. I have never picked up a violin in my life. I’m not that great at reading music either. But the idea of creating beautiful music inspired my kindergarten mind.
Fast forward to age 12. I wanted to be a chef. A pastry chef, to be exact. I was going to make chocolate sculptures and spun sugar nests. I looked up the names of culinary arts schools and asked for cookware for Christmas. By age 13, I was the best damn egg maker on the planet. I would be in a white coat in a restaurant before I knew it.
Jump ahead a few more years. I wanted to be journalist when I grew up. I was going to write all day and live in a charming city apartment with a cat and a few houseplants. I wrote for my high school newspaper and submitted articles to my Aunt’s monthly community newspaper. I was well on my way, wasn’t I?
Skip to 23. I’m a search engine optimization manager living in PA with a cat, a boyfriend, and several houseplants. I like to cook and bake. I still can’t play much music. I want to be a writer forever. I don’t care if it’s blogging or copywriting, but I need to get these words out of me. Part of me wants to write essays. Another part of me wants to write copy. Then there’s this tiny piece of me somewhere in the back that wants to play around with poetry, novels, scripts, and short stories.
When I imagine my future, I’m at a keyboard. I don’t know where I’ll be, what I’ll be writing, or even what I’ll value at that point. I’m keeping it vague because well, I don’t know what my future looks like. I want the flexibility. I want the chance to experience something I didn’t invent for myself. Maybe it’ll be my true calling. Maybe I’ll do something unbelievable and inspire people to do the same. I have no idea what’s ahead of me. I can wish, I can hope, and I can pray, but I don’t want to expect.
This may be corny as hell, but it’s stuck out to me ever since I saw this movie for the first time. In the cinematic gold that is Sister Act, I found a bit of wisdom that I still play over and over in my head from time to time. It’s a nice reminder, and it’s one that tells me that I’m on the right track to inventing a future I want to be a part of:
I went to my mother who gave me this book called Letters To A Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke. He’s a fabulous writer. A fellow used to write to him and say: I want to be a writer, please read my stuff. And Rilke says to this guy, don’t ask me about being a writer. If when you wake up in the morning you can think of nothing but writing, then you’re a writer.