I just celebrated 20 years of living in Philly and recently turned 40. All of this has gotten me thinking about time. How much can change in just a few years and how much things stay the same. What are the moments in my life that will change my future? This weekend I watched Back to the Future and it has me thinking…What would it be like to go 30 years into my future or 30 years into my past. What did I do in 1989 when I was 11, that helped me get where I am now? What will my life be like in 2049, when I will be 71. What decisions am I making now that are creating my future life?
In Back to the Future, the solution to your future is in your past and one moment can kick off a chain of events that can alter your life forever. For those of you who haven’t watched Back to the Future in 30 years, the lead charter (Marty McFly) is sent 30 years back in time and runs into his parents. His father (George McFly) is a push over and wimp in one timeline and in another he stands up to the bully (Biff) who is assaulting his future wife (Lorraine). By intervening and saving his future wife he alters the course of his life. He changes their fate and ultimately their future children’s lives. One act of bravery echoes through generations. I know this is a movie, but I don’t believe it’s far off. I believe that there are moments in our lives that have far reaching consequences that change the arc of our stories.
But we don’t have time machines to know exactly what those precise events were that set us down a certain path, all we have is the present, and it’s hard to live in the present. It’s easier to live in the past or plan for the future. Living in the present, can be overwhelming because the now is so full of potential and possibility that it lulls us into thinking that we have all the time in the world. That we can start that job search tomorrow, that we can put off calling that person, or we get so stuck in our own heads that we don’t take any action at all. When I think about how much time there is between me and 2049 it feels impossible, it feels like there is too much to do and too much to plan and too much required of me but I remind myself that all I have is to do is present now.
As Emily Dickinson wrote, “Forever is composed of nows.” To live your way into the future that you want you must harness the power of now. It sounds intimidating but I think there are really only two things we need to do in the now. Be brave and be kind.
Defining moments take all shapes and sizes. For me, I moved out at 15. I had to be brave. I had to stand up to a step-father who was a bully and make my own way in the world. For a long-time I was ashamed that I had to do that but then I realized how strong it made me. Much like Georg McFly, once you make one very brave choice other brave choices are easier. Bravery is cumulative. That moment at 15, gave me the courage years later to leave an unhealthy marriage, walk out of a toxic job, apply to tough schools and start a business. Bravery gives you the guts to make more brave choices.
When we give other people our power, cave into fear or ignore our instincts it throws us off course. But when you’re empowered you stand up for yourself and others, you insist on your worth and create your own destiny.
There have been many times in my life when I wasn’t kind. When I was mean spirited, competitive, bitter, angry and I know how it closes you off. Kindness opens you up. People and opportunities come into your life when you are kind. Being kind attracts people to you. And being empowered ensures that the right people stay in your life.
In Back to the Future, the scientist Doc, who invents the time machine, sees his future self on a video recording and says, “It gives me something to shoot for.” When I think about the woman that I want to grow into, the wise, settled happy 71 year old in 2049, she has taken some risks, she insisted on her worth and never backed down in the face of adversity, challenges or fear and that certainly gives me something to shoot for.
-Anna Papalia Founder & CEO of Shift Profile