The Unwritten Future

“It means your future hasn’t been written yet. No one’s has. Your future is whatever you make it. So make it a good one, both of you.” ~Dr. Emmett Brown (Back to the Future III)

I started college when I was 18 years old. I had to leave a year and a half later and thought my future had been written. I’d never get a degree. I was finally able to return to school at 21, only to be forced to leave yet again because of circumstances beyond my control. The future was written clearly to me at that point — I would never get a degree and never be a teacher. At 23, I began one more time taking classes, driving a long distance two days a week, determined that my future wasn’t what appeared to be written for me. I married my husband, gave birth to our first son, and then took my final exam, graduating from college shortly before my 27th birthday.  The lesson I learned was that my future was whatever I decided it would be, even though it meant getting pushed back over and over. As Dr. Brown (Back to the Future, Part III) explained an erased message from Jennifer’s future, we find the answer for each of us — the future is what we make it. Our futures are not written in indelible ink.

Have you made any mistakes in your life — you know, the kind of mistakes you think will totally derail your plans to live your dream life? I surely got off the track I had planned, and I know a few other people who have done the same. Some have never seemed to embrace the fact that they get to write or rewrite the future, while many have firmly decided that they weren’t going to give up so easily. I suppose that is my reason for writing this article: I don’t want anyone to think that their future has already been written, that their hopes and dreams can’t be reached. The future is wide open for possibilities and opportunities. Your future.

We recently ate dinner at a restaurant where fortune cookies were served for dessert. I cracked open my cookie to find nothing inside — no promise of amazing travels, no wonderful truths to guarantee my promise of riches. I was disappointed, as the fortune is a fun opportunity to imagine what might happen in the future. Surprisingly, in a test of 1,000 fortune cookies, only 22% spoke of the future — most were simply nice words about the person reading the fortune. My fortune wasn’t written on a slip of paper in that cookie, my future was left to me.

What if you were creating your own fortune cookies, writing on 22% of the pieces of paper about your future? What would you write? If you’ve always dreamed of having your own bookstore, would you choose words that would encourage you in reaching that dream? Would you write about your likelihood of becoming a great inventor if you’ve always thought people should appreciate your creations? I think I’d write, “You will publish a best-selling book this year.” Heck, we have to dream big when we think about the future, right?

The problem with most of the stories we write about the future is our incorrect belief that we’ll never be good enough, talented enough, rich enough, or good-looking enough to have the job, the relationship, or the life that we wish we could have in our future. When you look at that piece of paper you are so sure defines you, you need to know that it does not. You get to write the story of your future as often as you want.

Our passions in life change as we get older and are exposed to different circumstances. Back to the Future teaches us the most meaningful message: the future is ours to write, not someone else’s to direct.