Sunday, August 28, 2011

Ten Years from Now . . . with Commentary

In one of my high school classes, I was given the assignment of writing about what I expected my life to be like in ten years.  At that time, at age 16, I made a scrapbook about my future.  The assignment intrigued me, however, so a year later, I wrote a short essay on the topic, just for fun.  I came across this essay recently, while sorting through some old files that had somehow wound up on one of my thumb drives.  It was rather an appropriate discovery, since the essay, dated May 27, 2001, is discussing me at age 27, my current age.  When I stumbled upon this little “blast from the past” the other day, I decided to add a bit of commentary from “future Stephanie.”  The new commentary is in purple and is italicized, so as to keep from getting confused with the original essay.

Ten Years from Now
Ten years from now, in the year 2011, I will be twenty-seven years old.  I’ll be older and hopefully wiser, and I will probably look even more like my dad than I already do, but at heart I’ll still be in many ways the same person that I am right now.  I think I’m going to be a much better version of myself by then, so long as I don’t mess it up.  Let’s step forward ten years and meet the Stephanie Thompson of 2011:
2011 Stephanie is seated at a very large desk in her office.  She is currently working on her 3rd novel, a historical fiction story that takes place in Hollywood during the 1940s.  She looks up from her work when she hears someone approach.
Dear Teenage Stephanie, have you any idea just how difficult it is to start and finish ONE novel?  At 27, book one is still being completed!  Interestingly, I did actually start that story about 1940s Hollywood (when I was a freshman in college), but at about eight pages in, I came down with a mixture of writers’ block and disgust at my plot, and subsequently deleted the whole story from my hard drive.
“Hi, younger me!  I haven’t seen you around in ages . . . gosh, it’s been ten years!  You won’t believe all that I’ve been up to!  This is my new office that they gave me just last month.  The library has been really excited about all the educational programs I’m starting.  I’ve only been working here for about two years, but I plan to be here much, much longer.”
“Oh, you want to know about the photographs on my desk?  Well, this is my husband and me on our honeymoon to Australia, where we went to the Queensland Reptile and Fauna Park and got to meet Steve and Terri Irwin.  And this is us on our first anniversary, when we were living in Oregon.  I was expecting our daughter Kathryn at the time.  This picture here is her latest school picture.  She’s finishing up kindergarten right now.  That picture over there on the wall is of our twins, Julie and Megan, who just turned three.  The baby, Michael, is almost eight months old.  That big picture by the potted rubber tree is our most recent family portrait.  We had that done just a month ago.  Those pictures on the bookcase are of some of the classic actors and actresses that I got to meet when I wrote my nonfiction book about film history.  It was a big success.  And this picture here is from our vacation to France last year.”
Ah, so this was in the latter stages of the “Crocodile Hunter” obsession.  Frankly, that no longer sounds like an appealing honeymoon trip.  Somehow, I just don’t find crocodiles and snakes romantic, now that I’m 27.  And I never made it to France at 26 — I did go to Atlanta and South Carolina, though.  You’ll be happy to know that the classic film obsession is still going strong.  Boy, you sure have enough kids planned for us!  I’m sorry to say, none of those four dear children have been born.  I actually have 54 kids now, but I didn’t have to go through labor with any of them, and I get to send them home at the end of the school-day.  Still, I have to admit to a bit of sadness that those four vivid little ones that you imagined never got to exist.
“When did we move to Switzerland?  Oh, we came here a couple of years ago.  We love it here in Bern.  We have a beautiful chalet that sits on a hill.  The kids love rolling down that hill!  And there’s a nearby lake where we go boating.  There’s a bakery close to us where we get croissants and delicious pastries on Saturday mornings.  We take short train trips around Europe whenever we get the chance.  And whenever Mom and Dad come to visit, we usually travel down to Italy or Spain so that they can have their beaches.  Mom and Dad still don’t care enough about history!”
Well, Teenage Me, you were right about living overseas at age 27, but you picked the wrong continent!  My “chalet on a green hill” is actually an apartment by the ocean.  And instead of Bern, it’s in Qingdao.  We don’t see much in the way of croissants and pastries here (actually, I’m not nearly as fond of either of  those as I used to be), but we do live close to a very good kimbap place.  It amuses me to think about how you would CRINGE if you saw some of the things that I eat now . . . only last week, I ate raw fish!  That’s right, RAW FISH!  You were right about one thing, though — Mom and Dad still don’t care enough about history!
“Oh, you want to know more about the past?  Okay, well, I graduated with my degree in English from Evangel University, which is where my husband and I met.  Then I got my masters in library science from the University of Michigan.  My husband is an officer in the Navy.  We have traveled a lot because of his job, but now we’re staying put for a while, which is great because I love working as a librarian here.”
Ah, yes, I do still admire a man in uniform . . . but Switzerland??  You did realize that Switzerland is landlocked, didn’t you?  What on earth made you think the US Navy would station someone in Bern?  You’ll be happy to know, though, that I did get my BA and MA:  both in history, both from LU.  I’m not sure why you wanted to go back to Michigan for an MA, but be very glad that you didn’t.  You were right about getting to travel a lot.
“Well, that’s pretty much our life in a nutshell.  I love my family and my career, I get to travel a lot, and I go to a really nice little church.  So stay positive, younger me, because the future is going to be fantastic, even if the present isn’t!”
Yes, Teenage Stephanie, the future really is fantastic.  You didn’t get very many of the things that you thought you wanted most — no husband, no kids — but you do grow up to be a very happy and fulfilled person.  And someday, you really will finish that novel.  Someday.

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"Passage—immediate passage! the blood burns in my veins! Away, O soul! hoist instantly the anchor!
Cut the hawsers—haul out—shake out every sail!
Have we not stood here like trees in the ground long enough?
Have we not grovell’d here long enough, eating and drinking like mere brutes?
Have we not darken’d and dazed ourselves with books long enough?

Sail forth! steer for the deep waters only!
Reckless, O soul, exploring, I with thee, and thou with me;
For we are bound where mariner has not yet dared to go, And we will risk the ship, ourselves and all.

O my brave soul!
O farther, farther sail!
O daring joy, but safe! Are they not all the seas of God?
O farther, farther, farther sail!"

~Walt Whitman, "Passage to India"