If they are like every other teenager in the world, they’re probably being urged, coaxed and prodded to think about their future. And there’s probably a tug of war going on inside their heads between the here and now and the out there and whenever.
The future as propaganda
Nothing gets more propaganda than one’s future, especially for those who have most of it still in front of them. Your teenager hears it from all sides – from parents, teachers, bosses, college advisers, recruiters, even peers. The message is the same. What are you going to do with your life?
You’re not alone, dear teenager. In addition to you and many of your friends who are struggling with this riddle, many adults – maybe your own parents – also continue to wonder what they’re going to do with their future. They just have a little less of it.
Today on layaway
Think about how much we do that is connected with life that hasn’t happened yet. We save money. We invest for a pay-off later on. We maintain a special rainy-day fund. We make to-do lists. We write down things to remember. We take exams that will influence and reshape tomorrow. We plan for holidays that are still months away. We think about trips.
We buy things on layaway. We take out insurance to be ready for what might happen years from now. We plan for retirement. As newbies into this world, we get a social security number, which, throughout our future, will serve as proof that we exist.
The future isn’t a destination. It’s not like arriving at school or stopping at the gas station. Your future is composed of intangibles – hopes, dreams and possibilities. The future urges you to keep moving, dreaming, changing and growing.
Simply put, the future is that part of life that once you arrive, you’re still not there. No wonder it’s hard to look at and to answer that probing question: What are you going to do with your life?
Young man, young woman, set your goals but keep them flexible. Evaluate them. Discard those you lose interest in and make new ones. Keep your options open. Now’s the time to try new things, make new discoveries and prepare for sudden forks in the road. Welcome those sharp curves and U-turns. These detours help you evaluate the direction you’re taking. Relax.
While you certainly want to set your sights ahead, avoid getting so wrapped up in plotting, planning and pursuing the future that you fail to enjoy the present. The future is a great place to think about, but the present is the best place to be.
Tom Tozer and Bill Black are authors of Dads2Dads: “Tools for Raising Teenagers.” Like them on Facebook and follow them on Twitter @dads2dadsllc. Contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org.