Monday, January 19, 2015

Oh, the places you'll go

Last week, I was sitting in my office, reading through a proposal for a grant, when I looked up at my calendar and realized it's been exactly five years since I was diagnosed with melanoma. How funny it is to think back five years. In some ways, I feel like I'm the same person, but in so many other ways, I feel like I'm not.

I watched a TED Talk over Christmas break called, "The psychology of your future self." The premise of the talk is that--because we can't imagine where we'll be in the future--we underestimate how much we'll change five, ten, or twenty years down the road.

Here's a snippet:

At every age, from 18 to 68... people vastly underestimated how much change they would experience over the next 10 years... Why does this happen? We're not entirely sure, but it probably has to do with the ease of remembering versus the difficulty of imagining. Most of us can remember who we were 10 years ago, but we find it hard to imagine who we're going to be, and then we mistakenly think that because it's hard to imagine, it's not likely to happen. Sorry, when people say "I can't imagine that," they're usually talking about their own lack of imagination, and not about the unlikelihood of the event that they're describing.
The bottom line is, time is a powerful force. It transforms our preferences. It reshapes our values. It alters our personalities. We seem to appreciate this fact, but only in retrospect. Only when we look backwards do we realize how much change happens in a decade. It's as if, for most of us, the present is a magic time. It's a watershed on the timeline. It's the moment at which we finally become ourselves. Human beings are works in progress that mistakenly think they're finished. The person you are right now is as transient, as fleeting and as temporary as all the people you've ever been. The one constant in our life is change.

This year, instead of coming up with a traditional New Years Resolution (or in my case, usually about 15), I decided to set one goal: Travel to Australia to visit my good friend from college.

Sounds simple enough, right? Then why have I been putting it off for the past year and a half? Perhaps the thought of spending a whole paycheck on a flight is scary and it's inconceivable for a work-a-holic like me to take 12 days of PTO in one fell swoop. But I'm doing it! I booked my flight over the weekend, and now I have a little less than three months to plan my trip to the other side of the world. I'm giddy with excitement, and yes, a little scared, but I hope that by continuing to push myself a little outside my comfort zone, I'll become an even better version of myself in 2020, 2025, 2030, and beyond.