what’s next

When you’re a kid taking piano lessons, friends and family want to know how it’s going, and when the recital will be. And when you’re finishing up high school, people want to know what you’re doing next. And when you’re dating someone, people want to know when you’re getting married. And when you’re married, people want to know when the kids are coming. And when the kids are coming, will there be more? What milestones are the kids hitting? Are you going back to work? What are the kids up to? When’s their piano concert? What are they planning after high school? When will they become engaged? When will they have kids…

And on and on it goes. Questions directed to or about people are well intended, but rather milestone driven. So, what happens when you’ve hit all the milestones? What questions do we ask our elderly? “How are you feeling?” “What can I do for you?” We might inquire about the past. Or, in many cases, we don’t ask any more questions at all because we don’t expect our elderly to have plans beyond the day. We’re embarrassed to ask, because we assume their time is limited. But you know, we can learn something from this.

Could we all decide as a society to stop asking about the future? Let’s focus on right now. Unless you’re the parent or guidance counselor, we should ask youth “What are you enjoying now?” And if someone wants to answer with what piano pieces they’re studying: awesome! But there doesn’t always have to be more. If someone is dating seriously, ask what they enjoy about that person, as opposed to what’s next. Because sometimes that answer isn’t clear. Most of the time, it’s none of our business.

I’m guilty of wanting to know how people see themselves in the future. Recently I’ve been spending time at a retirement community and I recognize that the pace of our questioning is completely stifled therein. And you know what? I kind of like it. Let’s focus on the present. Let’s stop pressuring people with the next deadline or milestone. Let us allow people to live and grow at their own paces. Having deadlines for accomplishment can often lead to bad decisions. And always projecting to the future doesn’t allow for changes. Let coeds change their majors. Allow students to take art, choir, band. etc. so they have an opportunity to discover what drives them. And don’t hassle them if they found something new.

Allowing people to answer questions in present time, might help lift the societal pressure of turning a hobby into a career, or marrying the wrong person, or feeling like there’s any sort of timeline on how to live this life correctly. Because there isn’t a right and wrong way to do this. (Read it again) We all bloom in our own time. We would be remiss to classify one as a married, piano-playing, teacher, parent of two, when any of that can – all of that, can change in an instant.

I love words. Words swirl and dance around in my head. I have many deep thoughts. Some thoughts plague me. In order to release them, I have to assign the words. Once the words are strung together, I feel free again.

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