The thread of the life-span exercise (or so my book says), having considered my past and my present, now considers my future. “What might be the script of plan for what is to happen next in your life?” (McAdams).
Recently the topic of the link between past, future and present has appeared and re-appeared in my reading. Paul Ricoeur’s book “Time and Narrative” (the clue is in the title) makes a strong connection between our sense of lived time (as opposed to cosmic time – which I take to be the undifferentiated and unknowable time of Jung’s pleroma) and our need for ‘emplotment’ via a narrative which is constantly open to revision, and which is how we construct our identities. The present only has meaning because we experience a historical time and anticipate a future time.
The problem is that we just don’t think about it.
We experience ourselves in the present, but not of the present. Without our thinking about it (which is the point of raising “reflection” as a new skill) our pasts and our futures are incorporated in our presents and are “deeply grounded in habitual, unreflected, and mostly unproblematic patterns of action by means of which we orient our efforts in the greater part of our daily lives” (Emirbayer & Mische 1998).
So my future script is written in the present, and my present is the summation and the continuation of my past, and my past (for all that I tell and retell the story as if I wrote it) is all the people I have met (and some I haven’t) and all the facets and traditions and purposes and (the list goes on) of the culture I grew up in, and from where my family came from. Does this make sense?
My future script could be analysed in detail. Some hopes for the next 5 years - to complete the PhD, settle in to a rich vein of teaching and research at Henley and understand and enjoy what that means, find ways to challenge the thinking of people coming on the MBA at Henley, find a community of practice that suits me. There’s a work cluster there. Pay off the mortgage, clear away as much other debt as possible, support, love and be loved by close family, see my children continue to blossom as independent adults, reach out to several key friends who I have neglected and reaffirm those friendships. These cluster around home life. Continue and complete the novel that my father started work on but never completed, look for other creative outlets for myself, continue (struggling) with Yoga. There’s a hint of another cluster, ”me” things.
But, according to Erikson’s life cycle, the crisis in this time should revolve around “generativity” versus “stagnation”. I hope I’m cooked enough to avoid the inward-facing misery of stagnation in my late forties and early fifties, so I see generativity as the time in one’s life when it becomes correct (having done all “that stuff” that one is supposed to have done earlier in life and got it out of the way) to have concern for what will come after you. It’s the beginning of the completion of the cycle of life, an early nod to death, and yet coincides with the time in one’s life when you are probably best equipped to live and, for me, a time when I suddenly have some important projects I would like to see through. I’ll admit to being sentimental about people in distress, but I’ll also admit that so far in my life I haven’t ever done anything constructive about it. Perhaps this is important for me in my future script. I would like to think so, and if George were still around, he would be the one I would model for this.
Before all of that, I’ll have to put together a 15 minute presentation about undertaking this exercise at the PhD Experience conference in Hull next month!