The Future In Things

2011 April 13

Eventually, after you are proven wrong many, many times, you stop speculating about the future. You stop trying to fix it in one place as if you’re zippering a wriggling toddler into a snowsuit. You make rough drafts of the best and worst case scenarios, maybe throw in an idle daydream or two and you just let it go. You do what you planned to do. Then you sweep up all the fallen chips, you course correct, you revise, you shake your head and laugh at what could have been (but mercifully was not). In health and safety lingo, they’re referred to as “near misses” and you should fill out a report documenting what might have happened if you hadn’t ducked in time. In regular life, we prefer luck or serendipity or fate.

If you get very good at not thinking about the future, it also helps you not think about the past. The less you use it, the more your ability to imagine any other state other than the one you’re currently living gets weaker and weaker until  you might even swear that all roads, by some route or another, would have eventually led here anyway. The job you turned down, the major you didn’t choose, the relationship you decided not to move across the country for, in the end, they’re not much more than plot points in a short story. It seems silly that you ever thought of them in terms of making and breaking. Maybe you miss the person who believed every decision was marred by a million tiny spidery cracks representing far-reaching consequences almost too faint to see, but that person lost a lot of sleep and made a lot of useless lists.

Like the past, the future is just things, you tell yourself – good things, not so good things, things that absorb your whole head and heart for a long time, but eventually loosen their grip, things that seem as if they will change everything forever, but really only change what you’re willing to call “everything” and “forever.” Yes, it gets better, but it also gets worse and then better again.

And you will wonder why capital A advice ever mattered. At least advice beyond “Live it like you’re gonna lose it.” And again you will shake your head and laugh at trying to take such precise little words and carry them in your jacket pocket to be pulled out and rubbed between your fingers and held an inch away from your eye to squint at each of their wise little cells. And you will still be laughing long after you’ve taken off your jacket and rolled up your sleeves.

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