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Interviewing the Future

Author: Heather Mckie
Year: Future

Have you ever had an interview with your future? I have.

The future is a funny thing. It is unpredictable, anonymous, yet inexorable and full of potency and opportunity. In truth, there is nothing quite like it. Yet I always thought that when this particular moment came, I would be prepared. I would have planned for it.

But I suppose the problem is that you cannot plan the future. Sure, you can plan what you will have for breakfast tomorrow morning, or what film you will go see on Friday night, but lots of things, the big things, cannot be planned. Of course you can have hopes and dreams, and you can strive towards obtaining that degree, or promotion, or finally scraping together enough to put down that deposit on the three-bedroom sandstone villa. But one big thing you cannot plan for is love.

I met Ben at a job interview. I was fresh out of university and a long-term relationship, looking to escape from unemployment and the wreckage of a romantic entanglement. He was looking for an Assistant Manager. I don’t think either of us would have thought that nearly two years on, we would have found our futures. And that those futures would turn out to be each other.

So much of my future is a blank page, an uncharted map. In fact, this is the first time in my life where the future has appeared so murky and indistinct. From my early childhood, the next step had always been predetermined. I progressed through the years in a linear, logical pattern: nursery, primary school, secondary school, university. Following that well-trodden road suited me. It appealed to my academic nature, my love of learning and discovering and expanding my mental capacity and horizons. It engaged my mind and fed my curiosity while enclosing me in a safe and easy environment.

But now, I am discovering that in fact you cannot plan the future in perpetuity. The road always comes to an end. You cannot always preempt your next move. There are just too many choices, too many possibilities, too many potential wrong-turns. The enormity of the future hovers before me, both provoking and paralysing thought. Questions chase each other through my mind. Will I succeed in my fledgling career? Will I ever be able to afford that tenement with the bay window in the West End? Will I revel in the velvety goodness of fresh gelato devoured in the shadow of the Colosseum? My head is so crowded with questions I fear there will never be any space for the answers.

And yet I think I have found my co-author, a co-navigator who will journey with me through the uncharted waters of the future. Ben is the one bright light in my murky future. His constant light provides a steady illumination over the shadows of the unknown. I suppose it is ironic that the most important fixture of my future is also the most unexpected and unforeseen. And yet I do not doubt it. I do question my career choices, my living situation, and a host of other small matters, but never the possibility that Ben will not be there to discover the answers with me.

To me, the future is Ben. It is shared cups of tea in bed on Sunday mornings. It is boozy pub garden lunches in summer. It is nights spent under the stars before a fire. It is the keys to our flat, and the pizza eaten sitting on cardboard boxes that first night. It is Emmett the Labrador lounging at our feet before the TV. It is a ring, followed by a vow. It might even be sleepless nights and parents’ evenings. In other words, it is a shared future.

Because at the end of the day, that is what matters. The future is not about what you will do, it is all about whom you will do it with. You may be incapable of controlling all facets of your future, but you do have the power to decide who will fill your future with meaningful moments that will in their own time become fond memories. That is the gift of the present, of your present. Of course, the present can surprise you; it can throw curveballs in the form of friends, family, significant others. Some will exist only fleetingly in the near future, while others will mould themselves into the furniture of the long-term future. But only if you allow them to take a seat.

I took the seat opposite Ben across the interview table that day. Was it love at first sight? No, of course not. It was in fact bravado at first sight; a firm handshake, beaming smile and exaggerated assertions of professional capability maintained for an endless forty-five minutes. The love part came along later, as successive dates - or deceptively casual interviews - ensued against a myriad of romantic settings; pubs, museums, the North Stand at the football. Each encounter edged us closer towards our present. Now, we sit side by side, whether that be on the sofa binge watching Mindhunter, or during road trips in the car bobbing along to our carefully curated playlist. We lie next to each other on tattered blankets in the park and at the seaside, sipping lukewarm beers and pretending not to shiver. We are, and will be, partners.

Perhaps everyone should be able to interview their future. Surely it would be beneficial, to be able to probe the unexplored and uncover the answers? And yet doing so would narrow the future. Everyone would live with a shuttered outlook, moving from A to B instead of A to B via C. The scope of opportunity would shrink, leaving innumerable avenues redundant. It seems to me that we need the future to be unknown. We need to be both excited and scared by that prospect, and to seize its potential despite there being no guarantee of success.

Well, the future is a funny thing.