Three years ago, I had just finished secondary school, and one of my friends asked me to write a guest post for her blog. Naturally I said “yes of course”, and then spent the next few weeks thinking “I have absolutely no idea what I’m going to write about.” I found myself thinking a lot about how strange it felt to be leaving secondary school, a place where I was safe and happy for five solid years. Something that I have always struggled with is the passage of time, the unknown future and what it may hold, and so I decided that I would write about that. I spent a lot of time coming up with the topic I would write about, and then in true 16-year-old fashion, wrote it in about 20 minutes flat in the notes section of my phone before I sent it to her to post. I think it’s safe to say that whenever I read it back, I cringe more than just a little bit. Despite the slightly dodgy writing (I’d like to think I’ve gotten at least a little bit better since then), I still find the topic really interesting, and I recently revisited and reworked the piece to fit my current thoughts slightly better. I thought it would be really interesting to dissect it slightly, as I’ve been told countless times that the fear of the future and the unknown is something that many other people also relate with.
‘The concept of time passing is endlessly scary to me, because despite my five years of secondary school being almost a third of my life, at least my current self knows what it held.’
When looking back on things, it’s ridiculously easy to see things through rose-tinted glasses, and I am definitely guilty of doing this, however I’m mainly referring to the fact that there is no sense of unknowingness about the past, because it has already happened. We can look back and know exactly how things played out, but we can’t do that with the future. We can’t look forward and know what exactly will happen; and I think that’s why I see the past as safe. It’s a safe place where I know how things work out, and where I don’t feel anxious about unpredictability.
“Five years into the future, I will be nearly twenty-two, and that seems so much further away than the comforting and familiar age of eleven.”
I recognise the irony of this sentence now, as I turn twenty this year and have nowhere near the same amount of fear about 22 as I did at 16. I’m now looking five more years into the future and thinking “Well 25 seems slightly terrifying, doesn’t it?!” I think it’s natural to be slightly daunted by the future, but I’m definitely much less scared than I was three years ago. At 16, I was about to leave behind the safety of the school that I had grown to know and love, and start at a college that I had only been to a handful of times, whilst the majority of my friends went off to a different college than me. To say I was scared would be an understatement. I went on to absolutely love college, and made wonderful friends that I love endlessly. Perspective really helps. When I feel anxious, I’ve started telling myself that it’s actually excitement, and whilst this isn’t a magical solution to anything, it really helps me to distract myself from the fear and entertain the idea of the anxiousness actually being the complete opposite.
“The passage of time can also provide extreme comfort. I try to focus on the fact that I know that the moment and feeling won’t last forever. In an hour, or a day, or a week, I won’t be in the situation anymore. It will be over, and the anxiousness will be gone.”
I’ve frequently found that the very things we fear are also the things that can help us cope and grow from them. The very logic of the passage of time that makes me feel anxious is the thing that helps me put the anxiousness into perspective. If ever something makes me feel anxious, an event for example, I know that eventually time will pass, and I will no longer be in those circumstances; I will no longer feel that way anymore. I can use that thought to get through the feeling, and regain some of the power over my feelings and ability to cope.
“I’m sure the future will bring with it a whole host of new things that make me feel anxious, that I know I am capable of working to overcome. The unknown can be the most exciting thing in life, and it is reassuring to be able to refer back to the things that I have previously been anxious about and have overcome, even the seemingly smallest things.”
I’m constantly working on growing my comfort zone and learning new ways to cope with anxious feelings, and it’s really helpful to view the unknown future as holding positive possibilities for these things. I’m still working on tackling the anxiousness that I experience concerning the future and the passage of time, but it does really help to know that I am one step closer to conquering it with each day that passes.