All my life, I have told myself to wait for the future. I have invested in my future both resources and my own emotions. That’s a pretty banal thing to say, in its ordinary meaning. We all do this. But I have done it to such an extent that I have failed – or at least, shorted – my present self.
I’ve talked about this pretty extensively in the 11 or so years my blog has existed. But I haven’t felt it as acutely as I do now.
I’m not going to belabor this point: we live in unprecedented times. Never before has it been more important to take a “grand scheme of things” approach to the world. As someone who grew up in a communalistic society, I feel as though I’m decently well-equipped to handle this. I’ve always wanted to parse away some of my present to a greater cause. But in doing so, my whole life, I have reserved the future as a place that is unabashedly my own. There is an enclave for myself, out there in the near or distant Future, where I am my most honest, my most realized self. I am the culmination of all of my sacrifice and investment. The present is just some place I reserve to work towards that Future.
But the last week and a half or so I’ve had to confront some difficulties with that outlook. By compartmentalizing and promising parts of myself to a Future, I’ve made my present self impotent. What do I look like in this Future – where I am more Me than I have ever been before? I look intelligent. I look graceful. I look like the person I always wanted to see save the world. I look like my own hero. I look like someone who knows exactly what to do and when.
I suppose I should be thankful, learning this lesson at 24: the Future was this zeitgeist that we’re currently in, and I am as impotent in this Future as I was in my Present(s).
What a stupid, banal thing to be upset about. And it would have stayed stupid, banal and shamefully tucked away in the recesses of my mind if not for the fact that my most dearly-held, passionate “future plans” (potentially) just blew up in my face. I guess I’m not completely ready to admit to what I have potentially lost, but suffice it to say: I had planned and worked hard for this “next-step” after spending years and years denying that this “next-step” was right for me at all. I made a lot of sacrifices to try and see this “next-step” through; I had hoped that this would finally be what bridged the gap between my Present and Future where I am the superhero I wanted to see when I was 11.
I hold myself to an extremely high standard. Adam will be the first person to tell everyone this. But it comes from an earnest place: I believe so deeply that if you want to be in a position of service, you have to prove yourself first. That means – to me – study, study, study. Push yourself to prove yourself. You can’t help if you aren’t being responsible. You’re not being responsible if you haven’t been through hell or high water to show your commitment to service. And so, that means “next-steps.” And “next-steps” beyond that.
I want to preface what I say next with the fact that I am currently very raw and still a little heartbroken. I also might be putting the depression-cart before the depression-horse. But I feel as though I need to write through this. So here it is: I have held myself back my whole life by being held hostage by this Future that I neither know how to recognize nor know that I can ever recognize. I’ve told myself to stop giving into passionate desires to want to help now because it is irresponsible; it is better to wait until you have proven yourself a valuable source of help. Every stabbing of “oh,” and regret I have felt at seeing other people help – and me being nowhere nearby – was deserved. What if the Future was an excuse to absolve myself of the responsibility of doing the right thing Now? What if “next-steps” are just a trap, and I am a fool for falling for this trap over and over again?
What if – and this is the worst part – I am doing everything wrong? What if I have wasted my own and other people’s time?
This pandemic has made me think I am not the person I thought I would be during an emergency of such scale and gravity. Now I’m thinking I’m not the person I thought I was at all.
This could be a good thing. This could also be completely wrong. Maybe the depression-cart and depression-horse need to be abandoned by a roadside somewhere. I don’t know. But I don’t – and perhaps this is the most honest I’ve ever been – really want to think about putting the cart where it’s supposed to be right now.