When I was little, the question was what I wanted to be when I grew up. In high school, it was where I was going to college. Now that I’m in college, it’s what my major will be and what my career goals are. Beyond that, where do I want to be professionally? When will I marry, start a family, and plan for my children? Early on, an obsession with the future is instilled in us, so that the bend of the universe stretches out far ahead of us, supposedly in our reach but actually out of our line of sight. Personally, even the early question of what I want to be when I grow up is still unanswered, so I can’t even begin to contemplate the next question and all the others after that.
My friend’s father, a man very much like a grandfather to me, is aged and accomplished and undeniably reaching his end. After years of successfully running an international company and raising a beautiful and compassionate family, he should have answered all the questions by now because he’s executed all the plans, but even on his 70th birthday, he still tells me he hasn’t grown up. He’s still waiting for adulthood to come and bring clarity. Honestly, to a clueless college student like me, it gives me pause. Will my ignorance ever abate and give way to any degree of understanding?
This man, even in his own cluelessness and uncertainty, only sure of the lumbering approach of death, still marches on triumphantly. He doesn’t step timidly into a future he can’t see or know; his steps, perhaps weakened by illness and old age, are sure and confident. While his stride may not give me hope for or a clear grasp on my own future, I can at least follow him and know there is solid ground underfoot right now. If he has learned anything or has anything to teach from his long extended childhood, it is not the importance of what is unwritten or ought to be written; it is the importance of what is presently being written. The question to him no longer is what will he do tomorrow or next year or in 10 years–none of those things are guaranteed. The question is what will he do today because that he is guaranteed.
I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up. I’m in college and still don’t know where I want to go to college. I don’t have professional or personal plans. I don’t even have plans for tomorrow. I’m just blindly looking for a future that isn’t necessarily there. However, I can answer to today. I know what I am doing and, more importantly, who I am right now. So he and I, we will march on along the bend of time, not knowing if our next step will have a firm foothold but knowing this step does. The questions and the future will always remain things of uncertainty, but the present is a sentence with a period. It’s a sure, declarative thing.