My future, like most of my peers, is very uncertain right now. And I guess we could argue that everybody’s future is uncertain, given the dogmatic uncertainty of life. I typically explain to friends and family that my future is “a blank canvas,” to put a positive and cliche spin on my uncertainty. Oh yes, it’s a blank canvas, just waiting for me to paint it up with pretty colors and end up with a masterpiece. But lately, I’ve felt that the future is less of a blank canvas and more of a complex web, with an infinite array of paths. Sort of like a neural network.
Instead of feeling like there’s nothing there and I must create my future, I feel as though there is EVERYTHING out there and it’s up to me to discover how and where I want to fit in to those paths. Is it worth it to sacrifice X to achieve Y? Maybe I want to distance myself from Y completely, but know that Z is a path I’d like… for the time being. All of the possibilities exist! Just like a neural network, a single connection yields an overwhelming amount of follow up paths. It’s the neural connections to which you devote time and energy that become strong, and ultimately define how you behave. Like in life, it’s the relationships and paths to which you devote time and energy that become strong, and ultimately define you.
The problem, again, arises in the feeling that I don’t know what I want to do, or in which path to invest my time. Unfortunately, like the brain, hesitating too long without action or reinforcement causes atrophy. Use it or lose it, literally. The only thing more devastating than reinforcing the “wrong” path would be to reinforce no path at all. Error is not the enemy, apathy is.
Even the most confident of us can become paralyzed by the fear of choosing the “wrong” path. To overcome this, I’ve started to think about my next step as simply an experience that will become a drop in the bucket of experiences in my life. Collecting these experiences helps to guide you on your network of paths.
At this point in time, we have a seemingly infinite number of pathways set out in front of us, which gives us the exhilarating sentiment of “I could be this or this or even that! I could be anything I want to be!” It also gives us the depressing thought that once we choose a path, the others will fall by the wayside, drowning in the river of unrealized dreams. Not so, I say. The beauty of a neural network, and the network of future choices, is that no pathway is permanent and unchanging. No decision is so final that your fate is sealed. Embracing the next step for what it is – a step – frees your mind from that self-destruction.
Which is why I’ve started to feel much more confident that my future isn’t as delicate as I once thought. A “wrong” turn can be remedied through another subsequent decision. The point is to just get yourself out into that elusive future.