I find my myself constantly saying goodbye. It feels like as soon as one change has been completed, another is waiting in the wings. Just when I get my feet beneath me, another sucker punch knocks me right off them. I am awash in transition and it appears to be my own fault. Some days are so hard. I carry a weight on my shoulders that threatens to crush me. I live with so much uncertainty. Because the answers live in the past, and I am called to the work of the Future.
I don’t know if I ever actually made a conscious decision to be a Future worker. I think it has just been a part of who I am for as long as I have been. No matter my job, or role, or experience, I have always looked for the Future in my Present. To some, that may just sound like ambition, and I can understand why they might think that. But the difference is that I have no designs on my own personal rise or gain, I have always been interested in how the Now could inform the Then. I have never had a 5-year plan for myself, and if you ask me now, I can’t name a dream job or goal for my personal career, but what I can tell you is what I want to see improve about the community I am a part of before my time is up.
My work is Future work. A difficult line of work, as those of you in it surely know. Future work requires many things, among them: hope, unwavering faith, the vulnerability to take risks and see beyond your initial failures, the humility to apologize, a sense of vision for what could be, and the ability to say goodbye. And saying goodbye is often the hardest challenge of them all.
To do the work of the Future means to be willing to part with the Past. And the Past is where routine, safety, and comfortable lives. It is also where our greatest accomplishments stay. It is the place we know with certainty and most often have done our best work. Being a Future worker means constantly letting go of what is known, in the pursuit of what it yet to be learned. It is a work that is uncomfortable, arduous, and oftentimes filled with grieving. Some days I wish it had not chosen me.
But the Future comes no matter what we wish or choose. It will be here when the sun rises after the moon takes her turn. The Future is a chance to behold so much potential, second, third, and fourth chances. Opportunities to find new solutions, to build back what has been broken, only better. Future work allows us to not be bogged down by what is no longer serving us, and instead welcome what we have been searching for. It is a reflective practice as much as a forward-thinking one, where we can see the slow and steady progress we have made towards an ultimate goal; the ways in which we have ever so slightly changed the world for the better and inform the way we will continue to change our work to meet the new needs of the world we have changed. Future work makes us better.
Future work is not for everyone, and that is very fair. We each have our role to play. Some of us focus on the present, and some of us study the past. We all must work in tandem to truly affect the world around us. No one work is more important than another. They complement each other. But sometimes they also feel the strain of difference. Because saying goodbye is not easy. Even when goodbye is necessary and healthy. There is the pain of grief in Future work as much as there is the joy of hope.
If you work in a role that challenges you to change the world, you may understand the unique challenge of Future work. Of the need to always be considering where we are going and recognizing that things will eventually change, many times over, in order to get us there. You may recognize that evolution is a complex process; the result of which often looks vastly different from its point of origin. You may realize that when Apple stopped producing iPods, it wasn’t because the product had failed, but because the product, coupled with developing technology, had so profoundly informed the experience of consuming music that it had shaped an entirely new format, the streaming experience, which meant leaving the iPod behind, and welcoming its almost unrecognizable evolution, Apple Music. If you do the work of the Future you know that sometimes the way to recognize our greatest successes is to acknowledge they have become obsolete. To do the work of the Future we cannot fear the stepping stone, we cannot linger on it too long, and we must be able to let it go when its purpose has been served.
The work of the Future is wrought with hardship and grief, uncertainty and risk, heartache and despair. The work of the future is full of hope and joy, faith and progress, excitement and accomplishment. This is my work, my calling in this world. Some days it gets to be so very, very dark, and that is when I remember, that the Future brings with it the sun, anew again, every day.
And as they say, the Future is bright.