So one of the things that I keep getting asked about is when I refer to my past and my future as different people. I speak of the intents of my past, the situations she’s left me in and the struggles I face because of her.
I do this because past-aurynn is a real force in my life, a person who had hopes and goals and dreams but with whom I cannot hold a conversation. I can’t talk to her, share my triumphs or my failures, can’t ask her if it’s everything we hoped it would be.
She can’t ever know if we succeeded, all she can do is hope that things got better.
I speak of the aspects of my future, all the things I don’t and can’t know, only that my choices affect her choices and set the road upon which she treads.
My actions, or lack thereof, change her life. I am her past-aurynn, and I cannot know what our successes and triumphs will be. She will never be able to talk to me. All I can do is do, and hope for the best.
Communication is Key
One of the things that this worldview strongly reminds me of is the idea of four-dimensional teams. My past self is trying to have a conversation with me, sharing her ideals and desires with me through the actions and artefacts that are left behind. Within the bounds of a fallible memory I can remember her triumphs and joys, share in her sorrows and disappointments, and burn with the shame of those past decisions.
By the same token, I’m trying to have a conversation with my future self. I’m trying to communicate what I think we should do, lay out a future in which she’ll be happy, or content, or able to reach more of our goals.
But conversation isn’t the right word, not that there is even a right word. I can’t converse with the future, but I can leave artefacts and ideas, open some doors and close others and try to communicate my intent.
Try to make it obvious what I wanted to have happen.
Try, Try, Try Again
Try is the key word, and calls back to why I talk about “deep” time. Deep Time was an idea put forward about how to perform intentional communication with our far future selves, people who wouldn’t speak our language or have our symbols, would be outside of anything resembling our context.
In the context of the book, trying to describe how to communicate that we’ve left radioactive waste in certain locations, and that digging it up would be, well, perhaps not ideal.
Within my own life I often face the same ideas. I can only partially rely on my own memory, and even that is often suspect and illusory. Who I am and what I want shifts as the years pass by, must shift as I grow and learn and discover nuance, that I have lost interest, or that what I thought was truly important didn’t work the way I expected it to.
The only way I can reliably understand what I wanted from the past is to ask the present and the surroundings I find myself in, find the artefacts that brought me to where I am.
I live in New Zealand because a very young girl saw Jurassic Park and wanted to be one of the people who did that, who made amazing dinosaurs happen on screen, got a job in visual effects, and got to move across the world. It was a memory, a feeling, a desire, a path that past-aurynn had put the present on, and I found myself walking those steps across the world.
It wasn’t what I’d dreamed it would be.
Not bad, not by a long shot, but not what I dreamed it would be. Dreams are by their very nature unrealistic, and holding that kind of dream, anything would have a hard time living up to it.
This was the first brush of needing to learn a new skill, a new way of thinking about how the past and the present and what I should or shouldn’t do. I’d had a goal that the past had set for me, an aspiration that I should be doing this. That I had an obligation to that child to keep on with her dreams without introspection because, once, I had wanted that.
But I changed. I had to change as I grew and learned and who I was shifted. But what I hadn’t learned was that I had to give myself permission to not do what I thought I wanted to do, to try new things, to be someone other than what I had once wanted.
I had to learn that maybe that wasn’t what I wanted anymore.
Most critically, I had to learn that that wasn’t a bad thing. Past-aurynn is a suggestion, not a requirement. An option, not the only option.
Her choices and desires may no longer be mine. I get to choose.
Learning this enabled me to learn that it was okay to lose interest in things I loved, okay to find out that things maybe weren’t as much fun as I thought they would be.
It was okay to fail. Failure no longer meant that I was unable to fulfil the goals that I’d set for myself, that I was a disappointment to my past self, unworthy of my dreams, goals and aspirations. Instead I was able to let go and enjoy setting up a world for my future where she could experiment more, explore more, and try more things.
A world where I could start to see the culture of achievement, ”passion” and “merit” in tech was toxic, because it gave no space to admit that your past choices may no longer be correct. If we question, it means we weren’t really passionate about tech or programming. Real programmers just knew and kept on knowing. They never questioned, never had to question.
In Contempt Culture, not knowing something means you don’t belong, you aren’t part of the group.
For right now, photography is one of the important factors in my life. It is an art form I adore, a unique worldview that could only be mine, and an entire wealth of interesting kit to drool over. I have tens of thousands of photos as a result, three published books and I expect to take tens of thousands more photos.
But I also may not. One day, I’ll be past-aurynn, I’ll be a suggestion and a series of choices that I made to focus on photography and writing this blog. It’s time that future-me won’t have again, but as far as she must be concerned all of this, everything I have done?
It’s a suggestion. An option.
Tomorrow, future me becomes present me, and she gets the choice I get, to continue or not, to change or not, to decide something new.
She doesn’t know, and neither do I, if the choices we made before were the right choices. We’ll never know. The passion may fade, and that?
That’ll be okay.