The Future of Us
Christina M. Frey
Volume 20 Issue 10 2012-03-09
Spring is on its way, which means change is on the horizon. From graduation plans to college applications to standardized tests to the US elections, everyone’s putting a ton of time and effort into the big decisions that will affect the course of their futures.
In the meantime, the little actions, the day-to-day interactions, lie forgotten. But they’re no less important—as a recent “beach read” taught me.
The Future of Us, by Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler, is a YA book with an unusual twist. Set in the long-ago (for youth, anyways) time of 1995, it follows two teens who experiment with the newness of the Internet and find themselves on modern-day Facebook. To their shock they realize that their grown-up profiles—essentially a snapshot of their futures—can change based on the actions or inactions taking place in the normalcy of high school life.
Even the ones that seem insignificant.
While the book itself is far from a favourite of mine—the weak interactions and dialogue and abundance of cringe-worthy ’90s references make it difficult to really enjoy—it does make its point. What we do in the short term affects the larger picture, even though we may not see the connection right now.
It’s a message that comes at an important decision-making point in my own life. Set to make a major geographic move, we’re currently exploring schools, neighbourhoods, and other communities and opportunities important to our family personally and professionally.
At times the pressure seems enormous, the fear of failure high. What if we leave one stone unturned, one path uninvestigated, and miss opportunity by a hair? What if we make a mistake and change the course of our lives for the worse?
It’s mind-blowing work, maddening responsibility. And the idea of having so much, and yet so little, control over our own lives is downright terrifying.
But in The Future of Us, and in our own lives, it’s not necessarily the fork in the road that sets us down a particular path. It’s the alighting of a bird that gives rise to the avalanche, the careless tossing of a match that creates a disastrous fire, and the tiny spark that, fanned this way and that, blazes into something glorious.
Or the opposite.
The scary thing is that while we over-focus on the big, obviously life-changing events and choices, we neglect the meetings, interactions, comings and goings, and minor decisions that are equally important in determining which way we’ll go.
Not to mention what kind of people we’ll become.
I’ve not yet finished the book. I don’t know how the characters’ fates will pan out, whether in 1995 or in their glimpsed future.
Nor do I know where I, or my family, will be in the next 20 years, 10 years, 5 years, even 1 year. Our lives could be completely transformed in a week, for better or for worse.
We don’t know the future. And, as much as our best-laid plans are carefully created, there’s a myriad of interactions and events that can cause those plans to veer off course, the cycle of perpetuating collisions unleashing a far different future than what we’d planned.
So faced with the uncertainty, what can we do? Well, we can plan for major life changes. But we can also focus on the present instead of exclusively obsessing over the future. We can stay mindful of the daily interactions and decisions that can bring joy or sorrow not just to ourselves but to those around us.
We can live for now, transforming the reality of today into the very best future of us.