Around this time last year, I was purchasing my graduation gown, cleaning out my college apartment, and writing my last research papers. And, at the risk of sounding much older than 22, it doesn’t seem possible that a full year has passed since that time.
In that year, I have found a job that I love, where I am able to do what I enjoy every day with great people.
But I still remember how I felt on that graduation day – an unbelievable mixture of happiness, apprehension, excitement, and sadness.
Even though I was thrilled to start “real life,” I was leaving a place that I’d come to know as home and saying goodbye to close friends.
And then there was, of course, one of the most frightening words known to humankind. That’s right – the future.
High school graduation had come with many of the same feelings, but the excitement had vastly outweighed anything else. College was just the next step. It was like high school, but with harder classes and more responsibility.
But life after college … that was something completely different. There was no clear vision of what was next, except that it involved a job. I didn’t know where that job would be or what, precisely, I would be doing. I didn’t know if I would make new friends or if I would keep in touch with old ones.
The future – it’s a word that is both the most terrifying and the most hopeful in the English language. And, even more bewildering, it is something that we can’t escape. After all, even though we move closer and closer to it every day, we never really reach it.
We live our lives a bit like that old adage about the mule and the carrot … which only irritates and fascinates us even more.
For proof, just look at these three phrases: Delorean, 88 miles per hour, flux capacitor.
The first thing that comes to mind, most likely, is the 1985 movie “Back to the Future.”
That movie continues to be a favorite for many people, both young and old. And the reason it has such staying power is simple. It asks one of the questions that is integral to being alive: What will the future bring, and, if we could know, would we want to?
The future is like that last piece of chocolate cake. It would be delicious, sure, but we know once it’s eaten, there’s no going back.
But it is tempting.
Which is why so many of our stories have time travel. Even “Phineas and Ferb,” a cartoon on the Disney Channel, has sent its main characters across time periods… multiple times.
Of course, it could be argued this idea is a modern one – brought on by science fiction and a turbulent, technology-driven society – rather than an inherently human one.
But I would disagree.
How many psychics, seers, and prophets have handed down predictions?
After all, Nostradamus never had a flux capacitor.
So it is little wonder that people are riveted by books like H.G. Wells’ “The Time Machine,” or by shows like “Doctor Who.”
And even though many stories send us into the past, more often than not, the plots come back to the future. Characters try to prevent a horrible future, preserve a good one, or make one better.
It seems that even though we are anchored to the present, the future is never far from most of our minds.
And it has to be. By planning our futures, we achieve them.
And graduations are just one example of the many moments where that is true.
I know that I am young. I have only barely stepped on the stones that will be turning points in my life. I have not gotten married, nor have I had children. I have not seen kids off to kindergarten, off to prom, and then off to college. And retirement is, right now, a faraway thought.
But those times will come.
Benjamin Franklin once said the only two things which are certain in life are death and taxes. And while that is true, I can’t help but think that’s a very pessimistic way of looking at the world.
In reality, what is truly certain in life is the future. And while that may bring death and taxes, it can also bring wedding vows, babies in arms, photographs of smiling faces, and relaxing evenings.
And that is why, in my opinion, Isaac Marion best described the future in his book “Warm Bodies.”
“The past is made out of facts,” he wrote. “I guess the future is just hope.”
Sarah Allen may be reached at 937-393-3456 or on Twitter @SarahAllenHTG.