“So what are you going to do next?”
This was the question I was asked repeatedly throughout my two week visit to England from Cambodia last month.
My answer? “I have no idea”.
I like having no idea. I like the freedom afforded to me by not having plans. I can do anything. I can be anything. I can go anywhere. I am open to every possibility that comes my way. Nothing inhibits my future because I have no obligations, no responsibilities, no expectations, no anticipations. I’m lucky, I guess, that I am in this position. Young, adventurous, ambitious, curious … selfish. From the reactions of people who asked me about my future plans, I could tell many of them were disconcerted by the uncertain, undirected future ahead of me. Maybe they can’t live like I do, maybe they need to have a certain, directed future.
Maybe we all have certain, directed futures and we just don’t know what they are yet …
Whilst at home, I found myself rummaging through a dusty, disorganised antiques shop in Ashburton with my mum and sister. We found some old accounting books which had been used as scrapbooks by their original owner. The chronology extended, inconsistently, from 1907 to 1923. We thumbed through several and decided to buy the one which covered 1919 for my Grandad, as it acted as a timeline for the year he was born. A particular article, printed on 29th June, piqued my interest and gave brief details of several treaties being signed in France. For those of you who have some knowledge of World War One, this date should be significant. This was the day that, amongst others, the Treaty of Versailles was signed. Whilst historians’ opinions differ, most agree that the harsh terms stipulated in these treaties and imposed upon the losing side, predominantly Germany, after World War One was a principal reason the Nazi Party, with Hitler at the helm, was able to achieve such popular support within Germany over the following two decades. This rise to power, admittedly coupled with infinite other factors, led to World War Two.
My Grandad was born on 1st July 1919, two days after the Treaty of Versailles was signed. Twenty years later, he found himself fighting in the war, along with his two brothers, Douglas and Roy. Douglas joined the RAF, Roy enlisted into the navy, and my Grandad entered the infantry. Whilst my Grandad and Roy returned home safely, Douglas’ plane was shot down and he became a Japanese prisoner of war. From the moment my Grandad was born, was he destined to enter the armed forces? Was his younger brother Roy, not even a thought in my Great-grandparents minds, inevitably going to find himself on a naval ship? Was Douglas, barely two years old when the Treaty was signed, steadily moving towards his fate in a fighter jet?
I’m not quite sure what I believe in terms of religion. But I do believe that as individuals we are largely insignificant in the grand scheme of things, whether that scheme be influenced by man, the planet, or some larger force we are unaware of. We may have an impact on those with whom we come into contact, but I think each and every one of us is simply a speck on the space and time continuum. So what power do we have to determine our own lives? Was there anything my Grandad, or Roy, or Douglas, or any of the other tens of millions of civilians enlisted into the armed services across the world, could do to change their fate?
If the answer to the questions posed above is no, then why plan? Our future is already pre-determined. And I know this blog post has drawn negative examples from war (force of habit when you’ve study genocide), but I believe that most people are heading towards wonderful, happy, fulfilling futures. But do we have any influence as to what that life looks like? How we get there? Who comes along for the ride? Honestly, I have no idea.
And I like that.