Thursday, August 21, 2014

Being A Little Nicer To My Future Self

My future self will regret this eventually
My older self is going to be so mad at me.

When you’re young, it feels like there’s so much to worry about now that the future is the last thing on our minds. We have no time even for our lives right now, juggling our education, one, two or even three jobs, and all of our other responsibilities. The future will have to wait until we have a few minutes to spare.

We don’t have time for exercise, or to make ourselves a healthy salad instead of grabbing a too-salty chicken wrap from the local fast-food place. We definitely don’t have time to worry about retirement, especially when many of us are having trouble with month-to-month bills or even just finding a job. We definitely don’t have time to worry about forcing ourselves to drink milk or calcium supplements, especially when getting proper creamer in our coffee is sometimes more than we can manage.

At least, we tell ourselves that. What we don’t admit is that it’s hard to do things for a version of ourselves we can barely fathom, a distant figure that seems light years away. What right does that older you have to stop you from eating that chocolate bar? Will one less slice of pizza really make their life any better than it would have been? Why should we have to turn down our music? Shouldn’t we be enjoying ourselves now, because when we’re old we’ll be in no shape to enjoy any of it anyway?

It’s easy to let ourselves get caught up in thinking that way, to almost resent the idea that we have to take the time to care for a version of ourselves we haven’t even met yet. There’s always time to change, isn’t there?

The thing is, there’s less time than you think.

Getting healthy at the last minute doesn’t erase the years when you’ve been stuffing your body with fat and letting your bones get thin and brittle. It’s like driving a car for years without ever doing any maintenance, letting the brakes wear thin and the oil lines clog up, and then expecting it to run great after a car wash or two.

It takes long-term care to keep your body at its healthiest. True, it will start to break down anyway – even the most well-maintained car runs out eventually – but a healthy body will take longer to lose steam. Slowing down is so much harder on your heart when it already has clogged arteries to deal with. Hearing loss is that much stronger when you’ve been pouring years of loud music into them.

Even though we don’t like to think about it now, we’ll all have to deal with the mess our younger selves leave behind. And when it does happen, we’ll probably wish we could reach back in time and throttle the people we’d been.

I’m sure I will. I know how much of a mess I can make.

So maybe I’ll start worrying about my future self a little more right now, before she shows up and tries to hurt me. I’m not sure how I’ll squeeze in time for that salad, but I can make my own sandwich instead of picking up a hamburger for lunch. I can park my car further away from work, and squeeze in a walk on my lunch break. I can start taking multivitamins, and drink that extra glass of milk even though I don’t really want to.
In the end, my older self will probably still be mad at me. But at least this way, she’ll know I tried. 

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