I was 28 and newly separated with a five-year-old daughter.
I was scared, wondering how I was going to navigate my frighteningly alone circumstances.
“Work toward your ideal life,” a wise friend advised me.
What was my ideal life? I wished that I could fast forward to that place, wherever it was, and talk to myself. I had so many questions for my future self:
Where are you? Is your ideal life really ideal? How did you get there? What steps did you take? What was hard? Who helped you get there? Are you happy?
As a kid, I never played with imaginary friends; I was much too pragmatic for that. But there is something magical and remarkable about that game, the manifestation of companionship.
The playwright George Bernard Shaw wisely said, “Imagination is the beginning of creation. You imagine what you desire, you will what you imagine, and at last you create what you will.”
And so, in response to this challenge of working toward my ideal life, I conjured up an imaginary version of my future self. It required a bit of mental time travel to create a fully-formed version of my future self.
But there she was, sitting across from me.
She sat up straighter than I did, that was the first thing I noticed. She had a calm confidence, and her eyes were kind and understanding. Her poise and dress suggested that she had achieved some success professionally, and her aura of centeredness implied that her life wasn’t the chaotic mess that characterized my current situation.
Seeing her told me that the things I was seeking in my ideal life were confidence, independence, and stability.
I spoke aloud to my imaginary companion. It was uncomfortable at first, and it seemed a little bit crazy, but it was delightful too. I had time traveled; I was seeing the future!
It was my future if I wanted to create it that way.
She was kind and funny. She reminded me not to be lazy, to get off my ass and do the work. She told me to look for mentors; they were all around me. She said it would be hard, but worth it. She encouraged me by reminding me of my strengths and all the resources I had around me. She told me it would be okay.
She was everything I needed. I was everything I needed.
Now, a decade later, I can see this early imagined version of myself when I look in the mirror. Is my life ideal now? Aspects of it are—my 28-year-old self would be astonished.
But an ideal life is not a destination. It is a constant forward motion toward growth. My needs and desires are much different now as I approach 40.
Now when I time travel to converse with my future self, I talk to a much older version. She’s no longer the poised professional, but a graceful artist with flowing white hair. She spends her time creating beauty and curiously exploring. She has the same kind eyes, but now has in them the sparkle of wisdom that only comes from experience. She wears her wrinkles proudly and smiles often.
She tells me to continue to trust, to release my cynicism and to pay attention to my fragile heart. She reminds me that I am still in control of who I become, despite circumstances that foil my plans or seem to change my trajectory,.
Our future selves are already inside of us. Every day, a thousand different versions are waiting to be crafted and emerge through time or circumstance. Our future selves will arrive whether we take part in creating that person or not. But the best version will be the one we draw out through following our own desires and enacting the force of our will.
“…will what you imagine and at last you create what you will.” ~ George Bernard Shaw
Author: Andrea Kendall
Image: Courtesy of author
Editor: Callie Rushton