Ansley Bilyeu –
The future is something I have found myself pondering more than ever over the past few months. The future being this enormous, abstract, terrifying, yet exciting aspect of life. A part of life that seems to have so much control over each of us, not offering much control in return.
We, as human beings, plan, predict, and dream of the future in our greatest attempts to gain some sort of hold. However, this world we are living in now has harshly shown us, if anything, the lack of control we will forever face.
Personally, I have always identified myself as a planner and a dreamer. I love a to-do list before each day, a detailed itinerary, and a full calendar. I love to imagine and talk of the things I will do, as well as the person I will be. It is my way of placing hope in so much uncertainty. It is my way of gaining control.
However, I have done this to such a degree that much of my identity lies in what is ahead. So what happens when all that is to come, all that you’ve dreamed, and all that you’ve planned for the near and far future comes to a screeching halt? What happens when a pandemic grabs a hold of the world like never before? What happens when this pandemic has no clear end in sight?
For me, it was as though much of my identity was all of a sudden up in the air – my identity was now the uncertain thing. The question became, “What do I do if I can no longer make plans or dream big dreams?” and “Who am I if there is no possibility of my plans and dreams coming true at all?”. This is the dilemma that COVID-19 has made me come face to face with.
If asked at the beginning of this summer what life was looking like for me, I would have talked of the month I was going to spend serving at a camp that I love, my shadowing of various doctors that would help me to decide my future (per usual), plans of traveling the country with my good friends, and the immense personal growth that would result from each of these extraordinary experiences.
Three months and a pandemic later, the camp has been cancelled, shadowing opportunities are prohibited, and I have only left my home town once. But here is where it gets interesting. Despite all the change and disappointment, when asked what life is looking like for me, I still talk of the immense personal growth that has come from this ongoing extraordinary (Extraordinary: very unusual, out of the ordinary) experience.
I am in no way disregarding or discounting the complete devastation that has come, and will continue to come, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Millions have lost their family members, friends, and own lives, economies have crashed, countries have been shut down, and many hopes and dreams really have been put to a sad end. We have been living in the story of one of our history books – a story which we can accept is real, but is still so unfathomable that one could never imagine actually living through it. However, much like a history book story, there is so much to be learned and such an opportunity for growth during this time – this time right now.
We have all been forced to learn about ourselves, our communities, and the rest of the world from within our homes. I, along with much of the world, have realized the preciousness of being with one another, embraced the beauty in slowing down, and accepted that all we really can control is what we do right now.
This focusing on the now, rather than what is to come, has already led to tremendous change. Families are growing closer as they spend time truly together. Individuals are reflecting and becoming, rather than just dreaming of who they always wanted to be. A social revolution is sweeping across the United States as the struggles of black American lives are brought to the surface, and people are EMBRACING IT.
It is not always pretty, and by no means comfortable, but this space between dwelling on what was supposed to happen and what is happening, this space between controlling the future and controlling the now, is bringing change that was needed more than we could have ever known. And what’s even crazier – this is all the gift of uncertainty.
So, to the person reading this now, as well as 100 years from now, when the lives of 2020 really are written in a history book, embrace the uncertainty, control the now, and find joy in all of it.