I really love the idea explored in this photography exhibit, “Back to the Future,”curated by Irina Werning. Lee- Anne Ragan, who I’ve just had the extreme (sublime even) pleasure of doing four days of training in social media and teaching adults with over the past couple of weeks, introduced her blog readers to this siteand asked, “what would your former self have to say about your current self? What would the young girl above have to say to the woman she grew into? What would your ten year old self say to your current self? What words of advice would your 18 year old self have?”
It’s hard not to immediately imagine your adult self transposed into familiar old photos – I wondered where I might find a santa to sit on who wouldn’t mind how much heavier I am than I was in the 50s and 60s! And the shots where what was once a group of children are now taking the same pose, wearing the same clothing, as adults. I’m about the fly off to see my own family and thought of old photos we’d taken together as children and wondered what new and changed dynamics would be evident – and what would be the same?
But I also wondered about another conversation that my son, who has just graduated from grade 7 asks: “Does it worry you that I am getting older? That I’ve graduated from grade 7 and am going to go to High School?” I think I started this, unfortunately, when he was very little by saying things like, “Oh no! You’re turning four! But I liked it when you were three! I’m not ready for four!” Partly I was kidding, partly I was telling him how much I valued who he was, and partly I was a new parent, actually worried that the qualities I’d loved so much were about to go missing. But of course “four” was an amazing age, and then so was five, and six, and seven… So I changed to something like “I’ve loved you being six, but I’m very excited about you turning seven.”
In an email I got last year from someone, around Christmas, they said that when considering Christmas gifts to give your future self something – imagine what, ten years from now, you’d consider a gift to have been given ten years earlier. So I gave myself my first art class in fifteen years, and I am pretty sure the 65 year old me will look back and say, “That was one of the nicest presents ever!” But it also, for an email from someone I didn’t even know, that came out of the blue, changed my perspective on things – in any given moment I might look back to see and wonder at what brought me here, or might imagine myself in ten years thinking “Was that a gift?” It’s a really interesting perspective for me.
Looking at the old photos around the house, I am delighted to feel that young child would not have imagined how amazing the last year has been, or even the last month. I had no idea, nor did anyone around me, that life could be so exciting and full. How great. My former self would say, “WOW!”
How about your former self? Or your future self? Would they thank you for the gifts you’re bringing to that future in this moment? I can’t help but think of this in terms of leadership – that at any moment we might seize the reins, in our own lives, or in our work, or in our communities – on behalf of that future self, and pick up the incipient gift that will be delivered in a decade, or two, and begin to move forward into something different which, by virtue of seizing that moment, is already changed.