Living for the Future

Are you Living in the Past or Living with the Future in Mind?

Are you living your life with your attention firmly rooted in the past or solely with your vision of the future in mind? Or, are you simply stuck, not daring to look back on a past that might be painful; or too fearful to consider something new or different, whether it be a new way of living from a social or a cultural perspective?

When we are young our parents give us rules to live our lives by. These can help give us a direction; and as we grow we are generally given increasingly more opportunities to make our own decisions. However, sometimes there are differences of opinion and conflicts.

Back in the 1970s I remember a fellow physiotherapy student (the daughter of a doctor and a nurse) being very unhappy and receiving treatment for depression. Her parents thought that nothing other than a career in a medical-related profession was good enough for Rosemary, their only child. She felt pressurised to train as a physiotherapist, as a marginally better alternative to the professions of her parents.

Rosemary had only ever wanted to be a hairdresser. Her parents did not consider this a ‘good enough’ profession for Rosemary who felt trapped and resentful, consigned to years studying for a profession that she was uninterested in and had no intention of practicing. Rosemary was desperately unhappy, living her parents’ dreams, their dictates; and leaving Rosemary stuck in a present she hated.

Soon after qualifying Rosemary was able to risk her parents’ wrath and move on to live her dream and train as a hairdresser. In following her vision, Rosemary found joy, happiness – and success. Sadly, her parents never forgave Rosemary. This proved to be the only cloud on Rosemary’s otherwise bright and sunny future new life. Her parents remained stuck in their past dreams for their daughter, unable to share Rosemary’s present reality or her future vision. Sadly they were too stuck to even think about letting go of their disappointment, and to forgive, let alone gain an insight into how they could rebuild a relationship with Rosemary in the present, a relationship that could have flourished in the future.

When parents have a view of life rooted in their past, they may fall (knowingly or unknowingly) into the trap of manipulating their children into living similar lives to those they, as parents, lived in their past. Or anternatively, of their children achieving a dream that they had for themselves that was unfulfilled in their own life.

Such a life may have nothing to do with their child’s reality of life, be it a choice of friends, career, partner, or their dreams and overall vision of the life they wish to live. However, a son or daughter having a different vision of life than their parents had for them, and making choices that differ from those of their parents, can be judged as being ungrateful or just being plain bad, which may be very far from the truth.

When we have our attention fixated on the past, or solely on the present, we are unable to see what is now and what will be available in the future – either for ourselves or for our children.

Life today, brings with it new opportunities undreamt of a generation before. The speed of change has been phenomenal, arguably making it even more difficult to support our children’s needs and choices, than when our own parents were in our position.

For those parents bringing up children within a culture that they were not raised in, this forms a doubly difficult task in today’s world. There are so many concepts that we are unfamiliar with, making it difficult to build a vision of the future for ourselves, let alone those of our children – and our children can help us with that – if we let them. We also need to be able to reach out and get support, from within our families, our communities, and from those with the knowledge and skills to help.

Sometimes this can involve us letting go of some of the values and ideals we had that fitted a different time or culture, but not the now, and certainly not the future – and this is difficult.

However, it is a sobering thought to realise that what has happened in our past can be left in the past. We have the ability of creating a fresh, new and vibrant future for ourselves. We also have the power to support our children in fulfilling their vision, their potential, so that they can be the best they can be, even if we would not have chosen the same ‘thing’ for ourselves.

Loving our children, and those others we love and care about, involves us considering what is helpful from our past to help us; each of us sharing our own reality and accepting of the realities of others in our present; so that we can support each other as we move into our respective new futures – and futures we choose.

A quotation from Antoine de Saint-Exupery supports this notion very well:

“Life has taught us that love does not consist in gazing at each other but in looking outward together in the same direction.”

Comments are closed.