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?)
Okay, let me get this straight. I am to conjure up a version of JP five years from now, imagine what her life might be like and then, based on those completely speculative circumstances, give present day JP advice about the next year?
We’ve got current self, possible future self – oh, and for fun, self from ten years ago, if I feel like it. That’s entirely too many versions of me to deal with. I think we can all agree that one is enough.
If I were to give myself advice for the next year, based on how I hope/expect (wait, those aren’t necessarily the same things) my life will go, isn’t that basically the same as my current self making plans and setting goals? Why confuse that with a whole mess of hypotheticals?
There was definitely a time when I would have attacked this idea with vigor. Even about eight months ago or so, I sent myself an e-mail that I should receive in another few months. That makes me a little nervous now.
But it wouldn’t always have. Thinking about this prompt today reminded me of this one time in West Linn, when I was about 8 or 9, and I saw my future self. I was at the park, waiting for a high school softball team to wrap up their practice so my team could play. I remember seeing this brown-haired girl whose bob was exactly the same as mine was in those days. She had a letterman’s jacket and I remember thinking she looked kinda goofy and awkward. It was the weirdest damn thing, but I remember thinking, “That’s me.” Not even, “That’s what I want to be like when I’m her age.” I was struck by the weirdest sense of deja vu or whatever its opposite might be – the feeling that I was seeing myself in the future. It’s the absolute certainty with which the realization struck me that unnerves me, even now.
Obviously, it wasn’t me. Not in any sense. When I was 13, my parents moved us to Bend. I had long since stopped playing softball – kinda hard to pretend you have any ability when you go an entire season without a hit and your coach has to make up an award to give you because not even “Most Improved” is appropriate.
That move to Bend turned out to be – in my estimation – the single best thing my parents ever did for our family. Also, incredibly brave. To move three kids to a new place with neither parent having a job, not mention that my Granddad died during the whole moving process – well… I have often marveled at the fact that none of us imploded. I have these dreamy, fond memories of my childhood in West Linn. It was perfect for the time we were there, and as I have come to believe even more strongly over the years, essential that we left when we did. Not for any reason that I can articulate, save what I fear might have happened had we stayed. I don’t think I’d be who I am today if I didn’t have Bend to call home. I can guess at the various paths I might have gone down; in fact, I only half-jokingly said to a friend just the other night, “God, I probably would have had a coke problem if I’d gone to high school in West Linn.” But I can’t really know. Maybe I would have turned into that gawky softball player. Hell, she looked pretty happy. But I have never quite been able to shake the feeling that my me-ness wouldn’t have quite materialized the way it did without that move.
The point is that I don’t want to advise myself based on a tenuous slip of an idea about how I might or might not want my life to be in five years. Plus, the prompt is just so clunkily worded that it annoys me.
As far as advice to myself ten years ago, I will say this: I often want to go back and slap 22-year-old me upside the head for not going to visit Molly when she lived in Philadelphia. That was just damn dumb.