A letter to my future self | Opinion

I had problems with my contact lenses and stopped wearing them completely a few weeks ago while waiting for a new prescription. Thus, autumn fell into a blur. Buildings developed halos, abstract posters in patterned tiles, expressions became even harder to read. Sure, it was hard to figure out – I ended up assuming most of the shapes wouldn’t form symbols – but I loved how the chandeliers folded into the ceiling and learned to recognize friends by the way they walk.

Last week, the optometrist gave me a pair of temporary lenses, and everything crystallized from flickering to sharp relief: I could see the edges of individual leaves, the uneven panes of glass, the stains on the streetlights. where was the painting. Now it was delicious in a whole new way! As I walked down the street, I marveled at every grain on the sidewalk. Everything felt fresh with possibility and depth.

How far could I see? Were those lights always strung around that tree like that? How different these two adjoining rooms were, one warm and the other neon purple! So many textures worn with serendipity and care!

These days, not just because of my improved prescription, I often find myself thinking about phenomenology. Phenomenology is a branch of philosophy that focuses on how we experience things in the world, what those experiences might reveal about the world, and the meanings we give it. Phenomenology considers, for example, how we perceive things given social, cultural, linguistic and biological conditions.

Each of us has a unique phenomenological perspective. In other words, we have idiosyncratic ways of experiencing the world, which shape the way we think and act. But our perspectives are also constantly constructed and revised. My dad loves pistachio desserts, for example, so these grab my attention even when he’s not around; my teacher often mentions that 20 gallons of water go into a cup of coffee, from growing beans to transportation costs, so I began to imagine individual objects as containing their previous actions; my friend Leticia taught me about “patina,” the patterns objects acquire with use and age, so now I notice the creases and gouges in weathered buildings and shoes. And naturally, as my way of approaching the world changes, my way of thinking and acting also changes.

Therefore, when we think about the future, it is crucial to think about phenomenology. First, because we must remember that we cannot separate ourselves from our current experiences and our mental models of the world. And second, because we need to think more deeply about how our current expectations, habits, actions, worries, and hopes shape the spaces we will inherit. Thinking about the future then becomes an experience of imagination and phenomenological empathy. In doing so, it becomes clear how many diverse ways there are to see the world and its future.

Recently, I started encouraging friends to imagine their future prospects more concretely by asking them: what advice do you think your future self would give to your current self?

I received various responses: that many great things are indeed small; that several paths lead to the same place, and that a path can lead to several places; to relax; work harder; step back; cherish interpersonal relationships; get enough sleep. (A friend stopped me when I asked. “Wait,” he said. “If my future self is giving me advice, isn’t that what I should do now?” I just smiled and shrugged.)

When I tried to think about this question, I wondered how much my future phenomenological perspective would diverge from my current one. On the one hand, I expected a lot of differences: it seems that even in the past two years, a considerable number of questions have gripped me, equations have tested me, and colors have dazzled me. I can only imagine what else I will learn in classes and conversations. On the other hand, I wouldn’t be surprised if I remained essentially the same: hoping to do as much good as possible and still unsure of what direction to do so.

Anyway, future me, here’s the advice I think you’d give me (and, in turn, my advice to you):

  1. Move your brain and body in unexpected ways. Go to talks, read a lot, ask questions, stop to notice a tree, take a walk, go to see plays. Find interesting people, places and things. To sing! To celebrate! Dance! Make music!

  2. Be honest and intentional. Remember the names. Give sincere compliments. Ask clarifying questions. Don’t multitask. Don’t pretend to know things you don’t know.

  3. Habits are important. They keep you grounded, give you boundaries, set the tone. When you keep making exceptions, that’s where the positive feedback loops begin, until you stumble from one day to the next. So be deliberate. Get enough sleep. Keep your space tidy. Listen to yourself. Take care of yourself. Rest your eyes.

  4. Be kind, open and caring. Do good. Love deeply. To breathe. Pick up trash and lost souls. Prejudice towards good deeds. Listen and stay humble. Give yourself enough time and space to reflect. Let others know that you notice when they are cold or anxious. let others know when you need help.

  5. Things are organic and wonky. But hi. Do your best and relax.

Move your brain and body in unexpected ways. Go to talks, read a lot, ask questions, stop to notice a tree, take a walk, go to see plays. Find interesting people, places and things. To sing! To celebrate! Dance! Make music!

Be honest and intentional. Remember the names. Give sincere compliments. Ask clarifying questions. Don’t multitask. Don’t pretend to know things you don’t know.

Habits are important. They keep you grounded, give you boundaries, set the tone. When you keep making exceptions, that’s where the positive feedback loops begin, until you stumble from one day to the next. So be deliberate. Get enough sleep. Keep your space tidy. Listen to yourself. Take care of yourself. Rest your eyes.

Be kind, open and caring. Do good. Love deeply. To breathe. Pick up trash and lost souls. Prejudice towards good deeds. Listen and stay humble. Give yourself enough time and space to reflect. Let others know that you notice when they are cold or anxious. let others know when you need help.

Things are organic and wonky. But hi. Do your best and relax.

Did I understand well?

Julie Heng ’24 is an Integrative Biology and Philosophy Concentrator at Kirkland House. Its “Future in Progress” column typically appears every other Monday.

About Leslie Schwartz

Check Also

Env Min Yadav urges world leaders and citizens to embrace Mission LiFE philosophy

Emphasizing that climate change goes beyond mere policy-making and that its effects transcend geopolitical boundaries, …