When you’re a child, it’s hard to visualise the future. It’s hard to extract yourself from day-to-day life and genuinely picture what it will be like to be an adult. To have a job, to move out; to grow up, essentially. The future is an uncharted and remote destination, not quite mythical, but not exactly set in stone either. It’s hard to imagine what will be different between now and then.
When I was thirteen, I lost my father. It’s not something I talk about a lot. Not because I can’t, or because I don’t want to, it just doesn’t come up all that often. But here, it is relevant, as it was the first time I properly thought about what the future might hold.
Sure, in an abstract way I suppose I’d pictured a few typical major life events. Having a kid, getting married, graduating, buying a house, that sort of thing - but these were all in a blurred, speculative and hypothetical sort of way. Now, I had a concrete component that I knew would be missing; my Dad. Overnight, the perspective of these once-theoretical events was thrown into sharp focus. A piece of the puzzle was revealed, and in doing so tilted the whole picture from something warm and fuzzy to an acute vision, darkened with a stormcloud-grey tint representing the change for the worse.
In the intervening decade a lot has changed, as is natural for anyone navigating their way through their formative years. A few months after losing my Dad, I left middle school (which is now a housing estate), and moved to high school. The new school was located in a different town to the high school attended by everybody I knew, but by moving I met my lifelong (so far, at least) best friends. I got my first job three years later, at a store that no longer exists. I was accepted into University, found a new job that led me to moving out for the first time with a good friend I met there. Later, I would move country for a year (sort of) to Edinburgh for my placement year, and return permanently in 2014 after graduation. More recently, I’ve bought my first flat, and my partner moved up to live with me.
Most of those events I could have predicted happening. Naturally, they happened in entirely different ways than I imagined, but broadly they did happen as could have been expected. However, while I may have a plan for the overarching storyline of your life, the little details, the things that truly matter can’t be planned. If I’m lucky, I’ll make sure I hit most or all of the major milestones I set out for myself, but these events aren’t what make me. The events that change me, mould me into the person I become, can’t be planned in advance. They just happen, spontaneous and unexpected, and I like it better that way.
So, what next? I’m almost 24, still young, but also just as close to being 30 as being 18. Truthfully, I don’t know what comes next. I don’t really want to know either. Sure, I have plans. I have hopes and dreams like everybody else. But fundamentally, I want to experience the details, the fleeting moments that can change the course. I don’t want to worry about the big changes; I’m perfectly content to move along on the small things for now.
“Isn’t it funny how day by day nothing changes, but when you look back, everything is different.” - C.S. Lewis