Future Perfect

What we use to talk about the past in the future, eg “By this time next month, several changes will have come about.”

I get the feeling there’s a shift happening at the moment. You know, when things in your life change, subtly or not-so-subtly and you feel like you’re entering a new phase and that life’s moved on.

More often than not it’s because there are several small shifts that coincide. I guess for this to happen at the start of a New Year is not that unusual. In Australia, as well as the calendar year flipping over on January 1st, so does the academic year. Most people have a break from work over the Christmas and New Year period and so have a small rentrée even if their return is essentially to the same routine.

For me, this year, the change that’s brought about solely by a new calendar year has been magnified by several other small (and medium-sized) changes. Mr L’s parents were visiting for 10 days over New Year and left today to return to the UK, and so we are feeling that strange post-holiday feeling of going back to real life. Mr L returns to work in 2 days and faces some probable big changes this month and this year, of the exciting but also challenging kind. Master L starts preschool in 2 weeks, which his mother’s really excited about even if he’s not really that bothered about it. And then I go back to work after 8 months’ maternity leave to face all the challenges that go along with time away from the workplace: being out of the loop and then trying to rejoin that loop when my other life (as a mother of two) is what preoccupies me most of the time.  And on top of all that, Miss L cut her first tooth on January 2nd, just a reminder that her life is charging rapidly on too.

This unique feeling always makes me stop and take stock. It’s a combination of excitement and trepidation, a product of new plans and partly-answered questions. I’ve always been a planner and a goal-setter, which I suppose explains my previous attitude to resolutions (in short, I’m a fan but for a more in-depth discussion, follow that link). At the same time I’m a sentimentalist at heart, I cherish my past and hold dear memories of things I’ve done and people I’ve known. I’m not sure how the two go together, this love of looking to the future but also remembering the past….

I know it’s very in vogue to live in the moment and the popular quote which goes something along the lines of “The past is already gone, the future is not yet here. There’s only one moment for you to live, and that is the present.” seems to be what the pop-psychologists tout. I think there is a certain amount to be said for that. I’ve often been nostalgic for times gone past and those are often the times I haven’t appreciated as they were happening. Possibly a case of looking back with rose-coloured glasses, but maybe if we put those glasses on to look at the present and appreciated the moment as it’s happening, we’d prevent a lot of the regret that comes with looking back and realising how good you had it. However, what I don’t think is realistic is to feel you have to cherish EVERY moment. All those Mummy blogs that tell you not to wish it away because in the blink of an eye it’s gone- yep, some things, sure, but there are moments (hours and days even) of drudgery, boredom, tedium and even unpleasantness where you just kind of hang in there. I think trying to make people feel they are squandering their lives (or, rather, their children’s lives, which is the usual implication) for not “living in” all of these moments is a bit unfair.

I wonder as well, how you are meant to get the most out of life if you don’t spend at least some of your time thinking about the future? I don’t see how you can achieve much at all if you don’t make plans, think about how they’re going to come to fruition and what’s more, be motivated by the anticipation of making them come about.

And so I like this feeling of shift, it’s exciting. It reminds me that things are moving on and so I take a moment to notice how things are now because they won’t be this way again. Then when I do look back I can say, without regret “Yes that was a happy time but now I’ve moved on to more happiness”.

As JFK said, “For time and the world do not stand still. Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or the present are certain to miss the future.”

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