A multitude of questions that have resonated across the realm of my early existence, each differing in their frequency and complexity. Many of which I really didn’t mind answering.
But there was always one, in a concoction of perceived simplicity and retrospective conviction that I never really knew how to respond to: “What do you want to be when you grow up?”
No matter how much I tried, I was always lost in its obscurity. I never really understood how I was expected to know what I planned to do with my expected existence, especially when my footprint had barely scratched the continuum of time. I never really understood how we could speculate on the future when the present was so prevalent.
I still don’t. But I couldn’t say that. They were there, waiting for a response. A world beaming with expectation. Each profession brimming with its own association. So, I gave them exactly what they wanted. Manufactured a response. Sometimes, I would be fortunate enough that their attention would be diverted towards something entirely different. Sometimes I wasn’t. Sometimes it would wander further into convoluted debate.
“Don’t do this. Don’t do that. Do this. Do that. This is better.” Repeat.
I think we’re always trying to understand our lives. Either that or someone tries to understand it for us. And at its epitome is the undefinable, that which we can’t see. We’ve surpassed the past; we perceive the present. But the future, the future is unchartered territory. And we’re motivated by the eradication of its uncertainty.
I think that’s what scares us most. That’s why we try to eradicate all semblances of its mystery. That’s why we plan every part that we possibly can. That’s why we’re always aiming for something. And that’s okay. By societal standards, it would be senseless not to.
But we can’t actually plan for the future; we tell ourselves we can but all we actually do is plan pathways and hope we end up where we think we should be.
And when we don’t. We dissolve in the absence of achievement. We falter underneath the fallacy that is predictability. We resign to regret and reservation.
We say that we’ve failed.
I think everything happens for a reason and a purpose. Sometimes, we’re so distracted by how everything else doesn’t happen that we don’t see what that reason is. Sometimes, we’re so busy wallowing behind pre-conceived notions of the future that we don’t pay attention to the present.
This is not about being misguided or unambitious. This is about recognising redefined trajectories. This is about realising the boundless opportunities that are right before us when we care to look past failure. This is about challenging the notions of certainty. This is about enjoying the journey even in anticipation of the destination.
This year, I’m going to begin to a new chapter in my life. I don’t know if the major I’ve chosen is going to lead me somewhere. I don’t know if I’ll end up where I think I should be. But I’m fine with that. Because I realise that somewhere is somewhere after all.
The future in all its complexities is composed of a collation of thens, nows and afters.
And amongst it all, all we can truly control is the current. So control it. Go into unchartered territory. Embrace the uncertain. Be senseless. Maximize it in its entirety. Repeat.
© Hudson Biko
Photograph: Clem Onojeghuo