What Does Your Future Look Like?

We were all sitting in our little wooden chairs, art smocks tied around our waists, busy filling in a large white piece of paper with the colors of our future. We were the sloppy and babbling dreamers hard at work depicting "What I Will Look Like in 50 Years." This was back when we didn't yet realize our dreams had lines around them and that others expected us to color inside of those lines.
It was the kind of assignment where the teacher would hang each child's portrait at his or her desk, and then on Parent's Night our moms and dads would have to try their hardest to know Oh, this is Willie - no doubt about it! It was the kind of activity that would become one of the earliest answers to the oft asked childhood question: "Who and what will you become?"

My first understanding of my future was based off of whatever my parents told me. They liked to tell me about the day I was born, about how they waited for hours for the one specialist "to cross the bridge from Children's Hospital to Brigham and Women's," and about how Dr. Shapiro then gave my parents the diagnosis after looking at an x-ray. In my head I always imagined it like he was a fortune teller waving his hands in front of some crystal ball and when he peered into it he saw, "she won't ever be taller than 3ft or so, she'll use a wheelchair most of the time, she'll have above average intelligence, and when she gets older her bones will fracture less." Then the rest of it was history, it was whatever I dared to dream about and the people around me who I connected with - that was what my future looked like to me. That coupled with many episodes of The Jetson's made me certain we would have flying cars and wheelchairs before I turned 50.

Think back to your earliest memory of what you thought your future would look like.

There were probably some ridiculous sci-fi, fantasy, magical, make-believe components to it along with many attributes of what your life was currently like. Did you draw a picture of your dream wedding with Prince Charming? Did you have flying cars and cities on other planets? Maybe you drew a picture of you with your future family living on Candy Mountain? Chances are that your earliest fantasies of your future was made up of whatever was your present, and the thing you wanted the most - to the extreme and most absurd state.
For me? I didn't want a life where I didn't use a wheelchair. I didn't want a future where I was suddenly able to run. I wasn't interested in a 50 year old version of myself that didn't also have O.I. Those just weren't things that I felt were important to me at that time. I wanted a wheelchair that could fly, that had spikes on its wheels, that could shoot flame throwers from the handle bars at my annoying older brother. I wanted trees that were made out of pizza. I wanted to have super ninja powers like my mutant idols - The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I wanted to have a library in my future Castle-Home, a library filled with only my favorite books that I would have to approve of first.

In some maelstrom of birthday candles, 100th day of school parties, graduations, report cards, and diorama projects I suddenly have found myself now living that future. Or at least I am beginning to live that future my Kindergarten self tried to squiggle out in crayon. I still wish I had flamethrowers and spikes on my wheelchair, and I still idolize The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and of course I still want a library in my future home!
But now my future includes... being a young professional, thoughts of owning a home, what about a family (*face cringe*), where do I want to 'settle?' What kinds of organizations do I want to be involved with? What will happen when I get hurt? Who will be there to help me? Where do I want to travel? What personal goals do I want to try for? Does my future involve a care taker? Will I rely on friends and family? Some of this are the usual 20-something anxieties, some of it is very specific to my identity as someone with O.I. or a disability, others of it are dictated by the values I was taught growing up, much of it is some crazy mixture of all of the above.
As I look around my life and the city I live in, I don't see many examples of those who look like me and have executed the life-plans I have in mind. The future is a little scary when we're heading into the unknown, but it's also exciting and exhausting because I don't necessarily know 'what it will look like.'

Let's get back to that assignment I had in Kindergarten. No child sitting around that table cared about what it will look like in the end, it only mattered that they got their day dreams and fantasies onto a piece of paper - as best as they possibly could. We didn't have doubts as to whether or not this would be the right future for us, or whether our families and friends would approve. Maybe I'll try to rekindle a bit of that spirit back as I begin to carry my own future from squiggly Crayola drawings into *gulp* real life!

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