Making your future, sort of

posted by Jeff | Monday, September 12, 2016, 10:38 PM | comments: 0

I'm totally hooked on Mr. Robot, that show on USA. It would be a pretty intense show if it was only about the place of corporations and government and computers, but it also throws in plenty of mental illness, deep philosophical questions, sex and strong themes of identity. I'm only a few episodes into the second season, but it's going in the direction of understanding what you want your future to be, and making it happen.

Making your future is a subject that's near and dear to me, because I spent the first dozen years or so of my post-college life kind of meandering and allowing the future to mostly happen to me. I made a few deliberate moves, chief among them changing careers, but mostly I was avoiding any specific action, or even thinking about what I wanted my future to be. I suppose it's because I figured that it would just be obvious, and happen like a Cameron Crowe movie (most of which I've been obsessed with). You'll have a coming-of-age moment, the future will be clear, and you'll be making out with the girl when the credits roll. Seriously, that's how most Crowe movies end.

After I met Diana in 2007, you could start to see the economy go kind of sideways. For the most part, I liked the people at my job, though I couldn't see where it was going. Two and a half years in, when the layoffs started, I kept hearing this theme about how it was an opportunity. I spent the next year or so wading in and out of "opportunities," until I realized that I was falling into old patterns. I was letting life happen to me again. I had to start dreaming and being deliberate in making my future.

It turns out that my future making resulted in a whole lot of moving around. There's no question that I was happier for this action. I made some mistakes, but none of them were irreversible. Making your future requires defining it, and acting on it, yes, but what the last six years have taught me is that you have to be OK with being wrong about your goals and your actions. You have to challenge your assumptions and your normal.

Where am I going with this? I think I haven't been deliberate enough in defining my future lately. I'm comfortable, and sometimes comfort breeds complacency. In those first dozen grownup years, I equated comfort with happiness. I have to better understand what I want to be as a parent, a husband and a professional, and go there.

As a cautionary tale, I have to admit that the future that we get is rarely what we dreamed, even when we are deliberate in our actions. That's a pretty crazy thing to think about. I'm suggesting that you have to make your future in a world where it doesn't go the way you expect. That might be because we're too specific in our expectations. If I split up my life into five-year chunks, I'm never where I thought I would be from one to the next. I look around me today and have a total Talking Heads moment and ask, "Well, how did I get here?" The answer is the actions I took got me here, it's just not the expected "here." I would argue that it's probably better than what I expected. Time, experience, circumstances and maybe just dumb luck have a way of refining your future in exciting ways.


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