On the Future and “What is Next”

“And then there’s the future. Sheer vertigo.”

One of my favourite quotes is from the book Oryx & Crake by Canadian author, Margaret Atwood. I first read this book when I was 14 years old; a story of a not-too-distant dystopic future and the after math of a global plague, told from the point of view of one of the survivors. The main character, dubbed “Snowman”, makes this statement when lamenting on his painful past, and uncertain (if not doomed) future.

Of course, I live in no such dystopia. I mean, climate change is a threat to our species, geopolitics is complicated and destabilizing, antibiotic resistance might change medicine for the worse, and there are still countless and numerous human rights violations occurring in every corner of the globe every day (just to name a few things). But I am an eternal optimist, a futurist, and with a strong belief we will be our own salvation. I believe the future is bright even while I am standing in a world in the shadows of so many threats.

And when it comes to getting along and coming together as a united human species, taking care of each other and our planet, that’s where I see the space industry playing its part and a huge part of why it is something I have invested so much emotion and time into. I have found many soulmates in colleagues who look up to the skies and have the same vision of the future reflected in their eyes; a future where we are all in this grand journey together, pursuing the calling of the universe to explore and discover. A call we can only answer if we work together.

From a very personal standpoint, the quote I mention above has a more optimistic twist. “And then there’s the future. Sheer vertigo”. I am scared of the future, but mostly because I am afraid of now approaching a time where I actually have to make a decision on what the next step is. It might seem I have things figured out, but I really don’t. I have only been able to overcome major obstacles that stood between me and the potential of my future. I feel like now I stand in a room full of open doors, and I am afraid of which ones will close if I don’t go through the right one. Being a generalist has its downsides. I don’t have a niche.

I am not afraid of not being able to find a job, or not making enough money, or missing out on material aspects of life. I am afraid of not being able to take this potential I have been building up, and using it to make a difference in the world. I want to be a part of this bright future I envision.

I am frequently trying to strike a balance between pragmatism, and giving into personality flaws I have such as fear of commitment and fear of missing out. These fears are incredibly circular at times; I am afraid of saying yes or to making a choice that might be permanent, but I am also afraid of what opportunities I might let slip by if I don’t. But, if I do anchor down somewhere, possibilities may slip away I didn’t even know existed yet.

Every time I am asked “what are your plans for the future?” I can never give an articulate answer and become anxious, cataloguing my fears and uncertainties. I see several very different possibilities at once, and if I decide on one, the probability of the others collapses.

Another quote I really like (and which I have no idea where I even heard it):

You have the energy of a star, you just need to focus so that you can shine like one. Otherwise, you’ll burn out.

I definitely burn out faster and more frequently than I used to. I also fear if I don’t choose a more clear direction soon, I will never get to see the full extent of my potential.

Sheer vertigo, indeed.