Friday, November 11, 2016

The Next Four Years

A friend told me that now that he has emerged a bit from his dismay about the week's events, he is trying to come up with a project or two that he will take up for the next four years. Whether it's learning a new language is getting involved with some kind of service project, he believes that at least he will walk away from the four years with some valuable accomplishment, rather than feeling stuck and discouraged, as he does now.

His plan interests me, as I see how easy it might be either to take the energy of now and spend it on four years of anger and despair, or to let it dissipate, so that four years fly by in the blink of an eye, with nothing to show for them. Four years may seem like an eternity, but it passes quickly. Four years ago, I was already a year past having shot the last OLTL at ABC. Four years ago, I had already almost run through the unemployment insurance I'd never figured I'd need to use all of. Four years ago, I had already discovered that wanting a change and actually accomplishing it were two entirely different things. Four years ago, I still had three kids firmly entrenched at home. Four years ago, I had just barely discovered writing daily. Four years ago, I was seriously considering major career change, when I began to believe that what I had been trying to do would never again be feasible.

The last four years have passed in an instant, and while I can say that good has come from them, that good has been in small, sometimes random, steps, rather than a wholesale plan to make the years matter. I wonder if, had I taken on a four-year goal, as my friend is planning, I would feel more productive now. I wonder if, had I made a plan, I would have ended up somewhere different, somehow better off.

We can't really know where four years will leave us, whether those four years are the product of a new political order or simply the passage of four years in our own small worlds. But when we commit to using the time, not just letting it pass, we have the chance to walk toward a life we chose, rather than just toward a life the world made for us.

Will I take this week's energy, good and bad, and turn it into something productive? I can't yet say. But the idea of viewing "the next four years" as a challenge, rather than simply a tiring journey, is one that I'd like to hold on to.

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