The Future Belongs to You: Design it, then live it.
By Vernon Hiller | SGP Contributor
There’s a lot of talk in the media these days about the future, and not much of it sounds promising. Inflation, soaring home prices, the cost of food, and the widening gap between the rich and poor are just some of the things we’re hearing we may have to get used to. Add to that the impact that global warming, pollution, diminishing biodiversity and animal habitat is having on our environment, and well, you get the idea.
Many of our young people are beginning to lose hope. They feel that their future has already been written for them. Why study for a career that might soon be replaced by AI? Why dream about owning a home if prices keep increasing faster than salaries. Why try to create a life for yourself if there might not be much of this world left to enjoy?
But does anyone really know how things will turn out? While it may be true that many of these things appear to be converging all at once, that doesn’t mean it’s become impossible for someone to independently chart his/her own path.
Years ago when I was an acting fire captain, I witnessed the perfect example of a couple who had defied all predictions about their probable future. After responding to a medical call at an old age home in Toronto, we arrived at the patient’s room to find a woman sitting on her bed having trouble breathing. During our assessment, we noticed a WW2 Nazi concentration camp number tattooed on her forearm. When we enquired, she said she’d been a prisoner at Auschwitz and was 102 years old. We then noticed another bed across the room and asked who it belonged to. She said it was her husband’s, that he was 104 yrs old, and was downstairs having breakfast. We quickly realized that not only were these two perhaps the oldest couple to have survived Auschwitz, they may have been the oldest living couple in Canada. No one, least of all them would have ever predicted that almost 50 years after being freed from Auschwitz, at 102 & 104, not only would they still be alive, but they’d be healthy, married, living in Canada, and speaking English.
Another story about defying the odds comes from a girl I knew in college. She was a singer/actor/dancer, who had been a national level junior gymnast and had been performing on stage in Vegas and Broadway since she was 12. After auditioning for the Toronto Production of Cats, she was hired as one of their lead dancers. It was the perfect role for her.
Then, during her 78th show, while doing a lift with her partner, she was dropped, broke her back in two places, and was paralyzed in both legs and down her right side. After multiple operations, and two years in hospital doing rehab, a stranger named Richard came to her room with an envelope full of cash just 2 months before her discharge date. He was an artist, whose entire art gallery and all the money he had made while Sonja was recovering, was based on her career. His only conditions to giving her the money, were that she accept it without complaint, use it to travel the world, and never try to contact him again. Still on Morphine, and thinking she was hallucinating she thanked him and put the envelope aside.
The next day, after telling her sister about the stranger in her dream, they checked her drawer, found the envelope, and enough money to travel the world for the next four years. She visited 57 countries, met her husband, and remained determined to get herself back into theatre. After moving to New Zealand, starting a family, and opening a dance studio, word of her talent quickly spread. Soon she began acting, dancing and choreographing shows. Today, she’s the head choreographer for the Hamilton Operatic Society in New Zealand, and shows no signs of slowing down.
So the next time you hear someone say they know how things will turn out, remember, no one has a crystal ball claim on the future, least of all yours. You can either fall victim to the dire predictions of others, or you can live each day to the fullest, embrace a future of your own design, and develop your best self and the best world you can. Now more than ever, we all have a stake in the future.
About the Author:
Vernon Hiller is a decorated District Chief of Operations with the Toronto Fire Services and has served the city for over 36 years. He is a Board member with LEADR - a charitable non-profit organization dedicated to providing literacy tutoring for adults in Durham Region. - Having struggled with ADHD as a child, Vernon is passionate about helping others discover the potential that hides within them.