We think we know who we are, but we don’t.
We also have the creepy ability to rewrite our own history to suit our desires.
But the future.
The glorious future is what causes us some real concerns.
Dr. Daniel Gilbert wrote Stumbling on Happiness. It is a funny and brilliant book on how the mind works and how it shapes who we are.
One of the thoughts that has become my own is how our mind projects itself into the future.
Our vision of the future seems to be nothing more than our perceived reality of the present, except better, or worse, depending on how you woke up this morning.
As obvious as all of this seems, we cannot see the future.
We cannot really imagine what is coming because we don’t have the architectural plans, nor all the building blocks. Our mind is deficient. Not really deficient, that’s not really fair. Our mind is simply not designed to be a holistic mystic seer. But because we ask, our mind does what it can. It predicts, for better or worse, what our life will look like, with what limited information we have provided.
This is why we have problems with our future.
We are either ecstatic about what is to come, and then are left feeling disappointed. Or we brace ourselves for the worse, and are pleasantly surprised, and feel somewhat guilty.
My mom and dad made the decision to come to Canada and we arrived in the winter of 1985, because the prospect of remaining in Poland was dire. My father was a political prisoner, and an active member of the Solidarity movement in the city of Bydgoszcz.
He could not stop being an agitator, even if he tried. So, facing further persecution, or worse, being taken away in the middle of the night, to be never heard from again, he projected his future and made a hard decision. After some deep soul searching, my mom and dad looked for a way out, and I find myself here, writing far away from home.
After being carved up by the Russian, Prussian, and Hungarian empires, Poland gained its independence on November 11, 1918, to would lose it once again in 1939, and again in 1945. After sixty or so years of totalitarian oppression, my parents projected a future that looked bleak and unforgiving.
And then, just like that, on June 4th, 1989, it was all over.
Communism was dead. Poland was once again a free country.
My mom and dad, who have known oppression their entire life, were unable to see a different future. It is no surprise that they could not see the end of the Red dragon, in just four and a half years.
But it was too late.
The return back to Poland was almost impossible. They did not want to uproot me once again from the Canadian soil, I was beginning to call home, so they embraced the possibilities of the moment.
The problem of predicting the future can be devastating sometimes, because many of us give up on ourselves and our dreams, simply because we are certain we know what is to come.
But we can’t divine anything.
The world didn’t know Communism would fall in Europe. That spandex and hairspray would dominate the music scene in the 1980’s. That the internet would revolutionize how we connect and interact with each other.
There is much we don’t know about the future.
Quite frankly. We know nothing at all.
The only thing we can do is prepare.
But how do we prepare for something we can’t see?
We get to work, we embrace failure, and remain open to any and all possibilities.
That is the key to happiness.
Get to work.
Paint. Draw. Make Music. Plan your garden. Quit smoking. Lose a bit of weight. Ask for forgiveness. Offer absolution. Get a new wardrobe. Try new things. Meet new people. Revisit old things. Get over yourself.
Try new things and be horrible at them. Keep failing and falling until it becomes as easy as breathing. Become fascinated with your own ability to play the fool. It’s hard at first, but if you do it often, people are funny creatures, often distracted by bright shiny objects, and so they will eventually fail to notice you.
Accept all possibilities.
We are not in control. Control leads to ruin.
We don’t ask life questions, she asks us.
It’s important to be open to all possibilities.
To be able to return or accept a compliment. To be able to earn a living doing something we thought would remain a hobby. To be able to go back and be a child again. Not childish. We have enough old men with small idea. But a child. A little you, with unbridled energy, and a tenacity of living life to the fullest.
You cannot run toward the future.
You have to stay right here.
Get to work. Don’t chide yourself when you fail. Embrace possibilities.
If you do.
You won’t regret the future.
You will have stumbled upon happiness.