Memories of the future

Memories of the Future
Watercolor, acrylic & pencil [art credit: me]
With life experience, I’ve come to my own interpretation of time. When an event occurs, it creates ripples in the form of memories. I believe that future events also produce ripples, and we can sense them in the form of gut feelings; I call them, “memories of the future.” The more profound the event, the stronger the ripples. They inform us of potential pathways that could determine our fate, but they’re not set in stone until they happen. This belief is a direct result of some very profound events I’ve undergone in life. Before I tell you my experience, I will share with you the experiences of others.

In western thought, time is linear. It passes like a conveyor belt. Once an event happens, it moves further and further away from us, until all we have is the memory. The concept of standardizing time arose during the Industrial Revolution in the United States, when cities were connected by railroads for the first time. Each city had its own personal time system; 4 o’clock for Philadelphia might be 4:15 in New York City. Railroad companies standardized time zones across the states to minimize accidents, which eventually became the standard for the rest of the world.

Throughout the course of my life, I’ve learned that time is a little more complex than it’s typically portrayed.

I loved to study how time is interpreted throughout the world. Some see time as a cycle that grows in a spiral. You experience life, take actions that form patterns, and inevitably, repeat those patterns. Every time, you learn something slightly different, and you apply those changes and grow. In that way, you’re not just repeating all of your actions in a flat cycle; you’re slowly growing over time.[1]

I had a high school friend who had a dream that changed her life. We had a mutual classmate who seemed to live a very charmed life. She played the lead of every play, won every award, and drew people to her like a magnet. All of her successes sparked an overpowering jealousy in my friend. After we graduated from high school, coincidentally, all three of us migrated to the same college. My friend’s resentment only grew as she witnessed our classmate develop into a local town celebrity. One night, my friend had a dream that she was floating down the river of life, and in the lane next to her was our classmate. My friend witnessed how much happier the other seemed to be. Our classmate was enjoying life, playing instruments, singing, and at one point, playing with other children. She was always a few paces ahead of my friend, no matter how hard my friend tried to keep up. When she wasn’t paying attention, my friend came to a complete halt. Just like that, she reached the end of the river of life, a life in which she spent most of the time obsessing over the other person. “That dream stayed with me for months,” she told me. It offered her the insight to change her potential future if she chose to do so.

I experienced memories of the future in ways that I will never forget. In college, I studied abroad in Costa Rica. On my second-to-last weekend in town, I felt these waves of fear wash over me, intense feelings of anxiety that passed like ripples, each time more intense than the time before. It took hours for the feeling to pass. Exactly one week later, it was my last day in Costa Rica, and I was the only one of my cohort who hadn’t returned home. I wanted to do something memorable on my last day, so I made the very wise decision to walk through a park and take photographs by myself (I was being sarcastic about it being a wise decision, by the way). After I left the park, some people followed me out and down the street. As I was walking, I could feel their eyes on me. I had the grossest, creepiest, icky-est feeling identical to that of the weekend before, and I didn’t know what to do about it. After being stalked for some time, they eventually engulfed me, stuck a gun in my face, and grabbed my camera. 

The weekend before, I was already picking up on the ripples regarding my future. Before that experience, I had NO street smarts. Afterwards, I gained a much-needed awareness of the potential dangers in my surroundings.[2]

The memory of that feeling has never left me. Since I had never been in imminent danger prior to the event, I didn’t know what it felt like. Now, I do, and I am wiser because of it. 

On a less intense note, I had another fascinating instance that blew my mind. On one specific day when I was in grad school, it seemed like every single person I encountered was in a bad mood. One particular woman snapped at me, which caught me off-guard because I was accustomed to her being very kind. It’s not like me to cry, but I was feeling so vulnerable and sensitive due to all the stress from grad school, that I went home and just started bawling my eyes out. I thought that I had done something wrong, but when I replayed the events in my mind, I realized I hadn’t done anything wrong!! SHE was the one in a bad mood, not me.

At the time, I was working on my master’s degree, with the hopes of getting a PhD a few years down the road. All of the pressures of grad school were so overwhelming that I began to doubt if I could make it through a PhD program. I should mention, too, that I was very young to be going through grad school, so I didn’t have as many coping skills to inform me on how to get through these hard times. As I was crying, a feeling of relief and peace washed over me. To my complete surprise, I felt what seemed to be the presence of my future self in the room, comforting me and telling me it would be okay. She felt similar, but different. She was stronger and better at standing up for herself. She knew not to take shit or allow anyone to make her feel small. As long as she conducted all of her actions with grace and dignity, she refused to entertain the rudeness of others. 

Days later, I told the story of that horrible day to my mentor. I got to the part where the previously-kind woman was rude to me, when I blurted out, “Whatever! She was the one in the bad mood, not me. It wasn’t really about me at all!” 

“There you go! That’s the attitude you need to have!” she remarked in delight. 

“It’s going to be okay,” she added, “I feel the presence of your future self and she’s letting me know it’s going to be okay.” 

My eyes grew wide. I hadn’t told anyone about the visit from my future self, much less my mentor. In fact, I chocked it up to all being in my head, but here was my mentor, validating this very surreal experience. That was the moment I believed time to be more than just a linear conveyor belt. The thought that a future version of myself could communicate with not only me but also my mentor is completely mind-blowing. I mean, if anything, I’m really impressed with her!! Time travel, really?? That takes talent!!

I don’t know at which point I will become the “future self.” I suspect it hasn’t happened yet, but to some degree I already FEEL like I’m becoming her. I needed to go through that experience to get to where I am now.[3] 

Thank you so much for reading. I am so grateful to all of my readers of this blog. It allows me to put into writing some of these thoughts that are too complicated to articulate in a short amount of time. I hope you have a lovely day and come again soon!

[1] I will look up some of those authors and post them here in the near future. Back

[2] The weekend before the event occurred, I pulled my camera out with the hopes of uploading just one picture onto my computer. It instead spontaneously uploaded all the photos. I thought, “Oh well, might as well.” In hindsight, I’m so grateful that happened, because I would have lost all of my pictures otherwise. Back

[3] Oh, by the way, the woman who snapped at me never apologized, but she made a point to be extra, extra nice every time I saw her afterwards. I considered that to be an apology in and of itself, and so I relinquished any hard feelings. Back

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