What Has Time Forgotten?

Time capsule: where did you think you would be?

Time capsule: where did you think you would be?

Miles run Sunday: 5 (excellent!)

Miles run Monday: 3 (horrible!)

Miles run today: 0

When I was in elementary school, a few of my friends and I had an extra class that we got to take once a week.

I remember sitting out in a trailer (they now call them “cottages” to make them sound more upscale) near the PE classes, enjoying the sunshine and the respite from dreaded math and my teacher who used words like, “flustrated.”

Not a word.

Out in our trailer, we did fun things like create island nations and corresponding governments and argue about which resources were more necessary. Today, there’s a board game like that called “Settlers of Catan.”

We were the kind of trailblazers who made our own Catan… er, Rainbow Island.

The teacher was a bit of a wild card. We made fun of her, but secretly, we all liked her and her wacky, way-far-out-of-the-box skill set. During all hours of the school day, she held one of those tall, plastic cafeteria cups full of ice  and frequently crunched it with zeal while teaching. I hope her teeth survived to old age.

She had large, fuzzy hair the color of rust sprayed to her level of perfection, and the tips of her fingers would hover over it from time to time to check that its perfection was still intact.

Sometimes, she read us five-minute mysteries that we had to solve on the spot (I never did). They involved details like “larynx” and “late-model sedan” that remained foreign to me until I was at least 25.

One time, she brought in one of our classmates who later went on to be salutatorian in high school who tried to explain binary code to us (again, foreign, and dare I say it? Pointless.).

But one of my favorite activities was the time capsule. Various teachers through the years gave us time capsule busywork, but with this teacher, I had the strong belief that she would perhaps keep the information safe and present us with it on the day of our college graduation or wedding or even on the morning that we were launched into space.

So I laid out my information with great seriousness, thinking ahead to the time 15 years in the future, when I would be 25, and the time in the very distant future when I would be (gasp and gulp!) 35. Unthinkable.

But think I did.

My main exposure to future-think was my mom’s favorite TV show, Star Trek. I was dearly hoping I would not have to wear a unitard for my future on the space station.

The goal of the time capsule was to think ahead to what we would be doing, not the people we would become.

That’s why the concept of the book I just read, What Alice Forgot, was so intriguing to me. Almost-40-year-old Alice falls off of a stationary bike at the gym, bashes her head pretty hard, and forgets the last 10 years of her life. The last she knew, she was still in love with her husband, pregnant with her first child and prone to sleeping long hours on the weekends.

What a difference 10 years makes.

The author, Liane Moriarty, does a fine job of illustrating the small changes that lead to big changes… not only in what Alice is doing in her life, but in the kind of woman, wife and mother she has become.

I do set goals for myself for the next five and 10 years; things I want to experience, things I want to accomplish.

But do we do enough thinking about the person we are becoming as life has its way with us?

What are some ways you stay in tune with not only your outward goals but your very being?

What would your 10-year-old self be happy about your life today? How would he or she be disappointed?


40 thoughts on “What Has Time Forgotten?

  1. Bernie Brown says:

    I never really set goals per se. I had things I wanted to get done SOMETIME and I kept that in mind as time went by. Oddly enough, I have gotten all of them done. In fact, I have surpassed them. Maybe I set my sights too low. My life has been much fuller and interesting (and still is) than I ever could have imagined it would be. Go figure.

    • annewoodman says:

      You do have an interesting life, Bernie. I’m glad to hear that you’re satisfied. I doubt your goals were too low; your life has just been much more colorful than you could have imagined. That’s a good thing. ; )

  2. To keep track of my outward being I ask myself if I am the best person my grandsons think I am.

  3. robincoyle says:

    I think my 10-year-old self would be flustrated.

    P.S. Flustrated is my new favorite word.

  4. Melissa says:

    Ok, I’m going to have to read that one….intriguing. When I was ten, there was a show called “Spaceship 1999” complete with a shape shifting alien…very cool. I remember thinking how far off in the future that was and was totally let down when my older sister informed me that I was going to be 31 in 1999. Haven’t seen a spaceship like the one in the show or the shape shifting alien (movies and TV shows not withstanding.) In some ways, I am exactly where I thought I’d be with my family but not career wise because I never really got passed the getting married and having kids part…I know, so boringly sexist and antiquated 🙂

    • annewoodman says:

      When I wrote my first novel that included two career women, an artist and one stay-at-home mom, one of the people in my writing group said, “A stay-at-home mom? That’s so 1950s!” I think the whole lie about having it all is what’s antiquated. We can’t have it all… we might be able to have it in pieces, or at different times, but not all. Not all at once.

      BTW, What Alice Forgot was very, very good. Made me think.

  5. Carrie Rubin says:

    Your questions are too taxing for me. I’m still trying to figure out what “larynx” and “late-model sedan” have in common. I must have missed that chapter in my anatomy text. Dang it!

  6. Holly says:

    The cup of ice! How could I have forgotten that? She would have us go to the cafeteria and refill it. I think my memories of her are primarily of the perfume that wafted in a 6-ft area around her.

    My 10-year-old self would be devastated about the whole lack of kids thing, I have to say. But she’d be ok with me career-wise.

    • annewoodman says:

      Yes! She would have us refill it! And it would have lipstick stains all around the lip of it. Urgh.

      I think your 10-year-old self would think, “Wow. Ph.D.? Dude!” And then tell your older self to give yourself a big hug.

  7. jmmcdowell says:

    I think my 10-year-old self wanted to be a jockey. Well, that didn’t happen. Although, I did take riding lessons for a few years. 😉 When I started graduate school, I wrote a list of things I wanted to do in my life. Somewhere down the line, it disappeared. I remember wanting to be published in my field, which is done, but for the life of me I can’t remember what else was on it. Some form of travel, undoubtedly, but it’s flustrating that I can’t remember the details. 😉

    But I’m happy where I am, and the current wish list includes — no surprise here — publishing some novels. And travel to my ancestral countries.

    • annewoodman says:

      Yep. Publishing novels. Got it. ; ) It’s nice to have goals… it was so interesting how the author of What Alice Forgot made it clear that despite the trappings of a good life, the MC had become something other than she thought she would be.

  8. desertrose7 says:

    Interesting thoughts…I enjoyed reading of your experiences. Loved the description of the teachers hair 🙂 but to be honest at 10? Gosh….I don’t think I was looking beyond turning 11, let alone decades ahead. But thank you, you have inspired me, I think?

  9. Gosh, I love the sound of that book. And your teacher – you’ve really brought her to life for me. If my ten year old self could see me now I think she’d be relieved that I’m no longer fat 😉

    • annewoodman says:

      Ha! Ten is definitely an awkward age. Right on the cusp of adolescence, and the hormones are already started up!

      If you read the book, let me know what you think. I thought it started out kind of chick lit-ish (first couple of chapters) and then became something deeper.

  10. Gosh, after reading the other comments, I’ve kind of forgotten the question, it was quite a deep philosophical one though, I know that, I’m not quite sure my brain is capable of thinking like that right now.

    I always find it hilarious to watch older films that were set in the future, and it’s a future than we have now reached. They are usually so off-the-mark aren’t they, and look so dated too!

    Not quite the same as ‘What Alice Forgot’ but have you seen the movie ’50 First Dates’? I love that film, it’s similar in terms of the concept that when you don’t have a recent memory then everything is more about who you are at core.

    • annewoodman says:

      I haven’t seen “50 First Dates,” but I know what you’re talking about. What becomes very clear with the book is that the sum of our experiences is a pretty important part of who we are and why we land where we do in mid-life (or later).

  11. AmyMak says:

    I keep seeing that book at the library and now I’ll have to get it! I was just thinking about this today as I’m turning 38 this month (gasp!) and wondering if turning 35 would be better so I could have a few more years to “catch up” and “do” more…but I think not. I like the person I am today. But there are also things I “must do” in the next few years or I’ll be mad at myself. I wonder if I’ll feel the same after I do them 🙂

  12. My ten-year-old self might be wishing I was building more forts in my backyard, but otherwise I think he’d be OK with how I turned out. One thing I know: at ten I wanted to be a writer.

  13. David Gentry says:

    Other than having a great wife, children, sons-in-law, and grandchildren, my goals were to make a decent living; become a not-hated parent, spouse, and grandparent; learn how to fly; and enjoy my job whatever it would be (no clear path there). I feel pretty good about my accomplishments. I sometimes hated my job, but most of the time I enjoyed what I did to the extent of not watching the clock till 5:00 p.m.

    I suspect that “flustrated” might become acceptable because it sounds interesting. We had a neighbor who surprised me when she said, “I can’t phantom that!” After a few decades, I finally heard someone else say that. Yes, he too was from New Jersey or New York. Generally I can’t tell them apart.

  14. 4amWriter says:

    My 10-year-old self would not be very surprised at how things turned out for me in terms of writing. She would be shocked that I’m married with kids. She would keel over if she knew I haven’t given up on my dream to be a novelist.

    I would say that many of my goals changed when life took a detour. Throughout it all, I changed and grew. I think in a good way. I HOPE in a good way. 🙂

  15. Stephanie says:

    I love your description of your teacher. You write such beautiful words! So did she ever give you your time capsule? Oh, and I kind of like the word “flustrated”. Flustered + frustrated…I think it works!

  16. kabe1 says:

    Very thought-provoking. Not sure what my 10 year old self would think of me now – pretty sure that she would want to give me a kick up the backside and tell me to get on with writing that book that I have promised for the last 15 years. I’m sure she would ask me what on earth I was so scared of….That said, I think she’d be pretty pleased with the way things have turned out with the caveat about still potential to be fulfilled etc!! 🙂

    • annewoodman says:

      Get on that potential, girl! I need another good English book to read! Especially one about a mum who shows up at the carpool line all dressed up one day, and the kids tell her to put back on her yoga pants and stop brushing her hair… ; )

  17. I was bullied at school sometimes and took some time to ‘acclimatize’ myself to the new environment:-/ But that soon changed as I evolved into a bit of a tomboy. I wouldn’t have seen that coming when I was 10. So I would be happy about that.

  18. My ten-year old self would stare at me in utter confusion and disbelief coupled with a little shiver of fear because Someone Is Not Following The Rules.

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