A few nights ago, I found myself awake….again. I launched my NPR app and set the sleep timer preparing to be lulled into some sound sleep. After the headline recap, a story called “Future Self” began. The story was about a group of high school students that consistently year after year had low achievement test scores and low rates of college admissions. The principal decided to try an innovative, but controversial approach of hypnosis that would motivate and inspire these individuals to accomplish their dreams, their future selves. The principal began to refer to himself as “doctor” and his hypnosis sessions were focused on techniques that reduced anxiety, inspired confidence and increased self-esteem, essentially creating life skills of motivation, drive and resilience, really important work. As I drifted off to sleep, I thought about the importance of this work, but sleep ensued and I was unable to finish the podcast.
The next morning, I immediately returned to the podcast. What I thought would be this wonderful, innovative tale of turning failures into successes became something else. The “story” ends with the suicide of one student and the sudden death of another. The connection between them was that both students had been hypnotized by the principal and both students were at a crossroads of realizing that their future selves would not come to fruition. As the podcast finished and a sadness entered my heart, this original thought, this inspiration, became something different. As I reflected, I thought about the different tragedies of this story. A principal doing his best to serve and help his students gain skills to be successful and a student that couldn’t find love and acceptance in her current self.
When I think back of what I had envisioned as my future self, it is very different from the present picture. I realize I am not alone in this reflection and the funny thing is, I feel incredibly grateful for the person that I am today. I recognize the strength, resilience and gratitude that I have developed by enduring unexpected traumas and life events. I recognize those individuals that were placed in my path that helped me get through those challenges and obstacles. The mother of the student that committed suicide shared in the podcast that she knew her daughter would have never gotten into the college she was hoping to attend and she wonders why she encouraged her. Meaning, if she had taught her daughter about acceptance, coping with failure, etc., she feels her daughter would still be alive. This concept of a future self, the struggle of wanting more, can at times be mired in suffering. Happiness is about presence, enjoying the moment of NOW. So in pursuing goals and finding joy, there needs to be balance. A balance between potential and presence.
I started this blog with the hope to inspire, to serve. While I believe that this intention is still present, I find myself with the hopes of wanting to write more and turning this into something that will impact more lives on a larger scale. Is it realistic of me to dream of a sustainable writing career or am I like all the other silly dreamers out there that are just recovering from burnout and have found a creative outlet that will only amount to a blog with a few followers? Where is my future self taking me with this process? Additionally, do I continue to write regardless if this is not serving anyone? Would this be a failure if it helped not a single person but myself? Ultimately, it doesn’t matter because I chose to follow an instinct and pursue a passion, a dream so to speak.
I think the magic of this life lies in having hope and developing resilience. Knowing that it’s perfectly acceptable to have the vision of a future self and accepting the responsibility as decent humans to encourage each other in the pursuit of purpose. It is also knowing that dreams never realized provide opportunities for greater roles within our day-to-day lives. This space for potential, our resilience that is cultivated during these times are what we never imagine, never crave, but really, it is what creates our future selves. So continue to dream, continue to hope, continue to pursue, but have more compassion on yourself in the day to day, knowing that your future self will thank you.