The Future’s So Bright, I Have to Wear Tinted Bifocals

No Telling

I gave my students a writing prompt today that bubbled up little pockets of angst here and there. Nothing wrong with that. In eighteen year-olds, frowning end-of-the-world moods tend to mean they’re actually thinking about something other than what to post on Facebook. I call that a win. The prompt was simple: Imagine yourself five years from now. What are you doing and who is around you? Five years from today, right now this minute, who ARE you?

The results were fascinating. Oh, to be young in a world full of possibility! Strangely enough, most of the young women saw themselves married at 23. Clearly they’re all snagging older men, though, because the gentlemen in my classes overwhelmingly said no to that sort of thing. They’re all waiting until they’re thirty-ish to marry. Probably a good idea, that.

Four classes of writing students – most of whom haven’t yet chosen a major – told me they will be gainfully employed and driving nice cars. A few wise ones said they’d still be in school, graduate school, and eating ramen noodles for another few years. Most anticipate careers that involve a minimal work for maximum cash, bless their hearts. I hope it all comes true for them.

It’s important to note that not one student mentioned anything about worrying themselves bald over paying off college loans. I guess it’s a lot like giving birth – you don’t believe the negative hype until someone tells you to push.

Of course, I wrote with them. Always do. In five years I’ll be fif…forty…um…six. I’ve been going backwards for a few years now and the math’s starting to confuse me. No matter.

There’s officially a lottery here in Arkansas now, and I’ve decided I’m going to win the Powerball. That’s the first thing. A gal needs a little pocket change to make it into her declining years without eating catfood, especially if she teaches for a living. The Powerball prize need not be in the ridiculous millions, either. I’ll be happy with 25 or so.

Five years from today I might very well roll the speedometer on the 2001 Avalon past the 80,000 marker. This may take a few extra trips to Little Rock between now and then because right now I’m on the cusp of rolling it over to 40k and it’s been a while. No, I won’t buy a fancy new ride with my Powerball money. I’m confident the Avalon is good for another ten years, easy.

If I wait long enough, maybe those flying Jetson cars will finally hover the showroom floors. I’m hopeful.

The Perfect Grandson will be in second grade in five years. I figure I can either shower him with gifts and sports camp money until he graduates, or hand him 10 million for four years of college. It’s likely I’ll do both while making a geriatric pest of myself in Em’s daily life. I can multitask.

Despite being flush, I’ll probably still teach. Can’t imagine not doing that, although all that grading might eat into my book tour. I wonder if I’ll be the first one to grade essays in Oprah’s Green Room? Guess we’ll find out.

There are some other things I wrote down about doing yoga and being thin, but that made me almost as angsty as my students, so I’ll stop there.

I told my classes that imagining themselves in a future place is the only way to actually get there. Making throw-away lists and having drunken epiphanies are unproductive and sometimes lead to a life in mom and dad’s basement. Several of them nodded, so I guess they must have uncles I went to school with.

Yes, it’s a hell of a curve-ball to throw the future at them this close to a Friday night. That’s fine. Like any coach, I plan to throw a few more until they’re swinging clean from pure muscle memory. In writing and in life, that’s the way it should be.

24 thoughts on “The Future’s So Bright, I Have to Wear Tinted Bifocals

  1. I saw an interesting documentary on TV the other day about kids being asked to write about their future (ten years from now.) The usual exercise is basically to describe oneself, x years from now, but this school was taking the whole thing to another level. The teacher were actually asking the kid to say what they would be doing in ten years but also to write HOW they would get there. In other words, they had to think not only about their goal but also about how to achieve them. The teachers were explaining that people are more likely to work harder for what they want when they have an idea on how to get it. They also said that it helped the kids understand that efforts were necessary to reach one's goals. I thought it was an interesting idea. Btw, this was don in a private school in Tokyo.

  2. I don't comment much here because (1) you have so many comments to respond to and (B) I can alway catch up on a smoke date. But I just wanted you to know how grateful I am that you're my friend and too, for your leadership in the blogosphere.

    Like a man should love a woman he's not married to, I love you.

    Teacher Food

  3. Kanmuri, I used to do an assignment like that when I taught high school English. I think American kids are so eaten up with the getting-into-college goal (SATs, ACTs, gradepoints, standardized testing, scholarship essays, applications, FAFSA, financial aid, and more) that once they finally get into a college classroom, they're a bit stunned. Instead of college being one of the steps toward a larger goal, it became The Only Goal. Too many intelligent, adept students find themselves floundering as freshmen. It's especially problematic for first-generation college students, and we have a lot of them here in Arkansas. Maybe we should implement the Tokyo exercise to put things back into perspective for these students. Thanks for listening to me vent, Kanmuri.

    Ekanth, I like the direction of your dreams!

    Painting and grandkid. Kate, that sounds glorious.

    Oh, Mike. Mwah right back at you, mister. Y'all go visit his blog. This guy's the bomb.

  4. Oh to be able to go back to my eighteen year old self and enlighten her on what I'd ACTUALLY be doing in 5 or even 10 years! Honestly the first time I remember ever answering that question was in a job interview and at that point I had never even thought of it. Note to everyone out there- awkward silence is not helpful during an interview! Needless to say I think the older I get the more I know what my goals are AND how to get there. Thank God for that.

  5. My high school history teacher had us write a letter to ourselves 5 years ahead. He said he'd mail them to us when we all hit 23. . .and imagine my surprise when he actually did! I didn't think I'd be married at 23, but I was. And I had written that I wanted to be a farmer, but at 23 I had discarded that idea and was hoping for poet. I had a beret and a favorite dimly-lit coffee shop and everything. And now I'm knee deep in turkey poop and crop acres.

    Keep it up, Monda. Nothing like making these on-the-brink-of- adults discover what they think they know about themselves. So they can laugh later about the truth and the lies in their 18 year old minds. Some of them might like the exercise so much they'll start blogging. . .

  6. When I was 18 I also thought I'd be married and have a kid by the time I was 23. I thank God every day that He is far wiser than me. I never would have had the opportunity to discovery WHO I am and WHAT I truly wanted FOR MYSELF if my 18-year-old self's plans had actually panned out. Now, at 29, I feel that I am finally ready to get married, hopefully soon, and maybe start thinking about kids. But I have so many other dreams that I am just as ready to begin pursuing, like writing a book. But I am only ready for these things because I was given the gift of time for self-discovery first. I wish I could communicate that to all 18-year-old women…

  7. In five years I just might be teaching, too. I bit the bullet and applied to the master's/secondary teacher certifcation program yesterday. If all goes well (and I don't choke on the GRE), I'll be a high school english teacher here before too long.

    Cross your fingers…

    Five years ago if someone told me I'd be a divorced mother with an expanding ass, I'd have punched them in the face cause I didn't see any of that coming. Okay, fine. I didn't see the big ass coming.

  8. I love that you write with your students. I do this too when I substitute teach for middle schoolers. I like them to know that writing is not just for the school years, but that it can (and should) extend into grown-uphood.

    In five years, I'll be planning for my daughter's high school graduation and have a 13 year-old son who'll be eating a fridge-full of food every 3 days or so. I'll also be loving each of them with five more years' worth of compounded love and memories.

    I'll still be writing, still be washing dishes by hand, and still be teaching in some capacity. But I'll also have a backyard guava tree and a small room for my books, my writing supplies, and my sewing machine.

    Thanks for the prompt. It's perfect for a Friday.

  9. Like CJR, I thought I would also be married by 23, or at least in a relationship where that reality wasn't far off. And like CJR, I am so glad and sometimes feel lucky that the relationship I was in when I was 23 didn't manifest itself into marriage. What is it about 18-year-old girls that makes them (us) want marriage so young?

    I remember the day when I realized that most of the people who I saw with lots of money worked really hard for it, like 80 hours per week. I started to re-evaluate if all that money was worth all that time.

  10. i'm not much for thinking too far hard ahead. I'v learned that disappointment happens most often when I do this. However, I do have a few goals i'd like to either be doing or have accomplished in 5 years time. Some of the goals will probably take longer than that, but those are the kind of goals I strive for on a daily basis really.
    So, since it's too much for me to type here I wanted to thank you Monda for inspiring today's blog on my site. check it out:

  11. hmmm. that is interesting. I have so much respect for educators like you. Lets see… Five Years from now….

    I'll still be in the army, but hopefully by then my degree will FINALLY be finished and I will be a commissioned officer. Hopefully I will be started in a crazy hectic career where I work my ass off but make enough money to drive that nice car, and support my spending habit. I will work hard, party harder. I'll be 25. Maybe I will be dating someone nice steadily… not necessarily ready to settle down… but they will keep a toothbrush at my house. We will be beginning talk about combining households. Possibly getting a dog… a Yellow Lab or something like that.

  12. I don't think about the future because the present is scary enough.

    Ahem. But you have to buy at least one lottery ticket. (I limit myself to one per year.) You have to give God a chance.

  13. Love the assignment. That's the kind of thing I would assign if I were still in that kind of classroom. I teach art now, but I am a literacy coach for our building and try to encourage that kind of writing.

    I haven't tried the lottery yet. I'm not sure where to buy tickets here in Fayetteville. Sure could use a big win, though.

  14. In five years my youngest will have just left the nest. That's as far as I've gotten.

    I'll probably still be teaching, have my Master's in Public Health, but I'm pretty darn sure I don't want the Dean's position. Associate Dean is working out well for me. I'm afraid that if I do move up to Dean, I won't have any classroom time, which I love.

    Of course, if I ever win the Powerball in the next five years, my life will be much different. Teaching when I want to – a mod here, a mod there – writing as much as I want and travelling. We'll have to hire somebody to take care of the horses while we're globe-trotting, but that's doable 🙂

    Nate – so do you snag a hot Marine? And if so, is your pet a bulldog? Just playin'. Hope you get everything you want in five years.

  15. So at 18 I was in the Navy, having decided that I wasn't sure what my goals for the future were. I just knew I could postpone making them. I did… indefinitely.
    Turns out I didn't have goals, just expectations and we know how those turn out.
    Here's that moment when the realization that I am not the center of the universe conks me on the head and I realize that whether I am here or not, things will continue to happen.
    None of it is about me and I am perfectly okay with that.

    The weather here has finally cooled enough that I am not uncomfortable watching the kids at football practice.

  16. I really enjoy reading your blog. This post in particular.

    Five years from now probably seemed like such a long time to those 18 year olds, yet, we “older” people know that it will come in a blink of an eye.

  17. What an interesting blog. It gives us all a nice glimpse into the minds of 18 year olds. Although, I was there not too terribly long ago. I am in graduate school working on a teaching degree, however, I am still pulling hair out to pay the bills and ramen noodles are staples in my house, lol!

  18. Interesting post. I am sure not much of what I thought at 18 remains…except my chosen field as a veterinary technician, something I never regret. Marriages, cars, homes…have come and gone but I miss my Mike and the future we might have had more than all the regrets of the past…

  19. I'm too far behind to ever catch up properly. Oh to have the luxury of staggered commenting like WordPress so I could respond to everyone individually.

    Heads up – there's a stomach virus that's got H1N1 looking like a sneeze. Don't ask.

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