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On The Future

Posted: 07.19.2012

By Mel Rodgers

Ever fantasize that, one day, you will have that perfect body, and along with the body comes a great life. All your vices will disappear the moment you are granted that body; suddenly you’ll be the woman everyone wants – the ideal sister, daughter, girlfriend, wife, mother, lover. A lot of the time I feel like I’m waiting to be perfect, like I’m practising for what comes later. Yet, in all the practice, the waiting, the agonizing over my life’s direction, I pay little heed to how some of my current decisions may compromise my future.

Instant gratification pervades today’s society. We are always connected; if someone doesn’t reply to us instantly we are offended. We expect everything to happen immediately. This is surely part of the reasons that humans fall for scams all the time – losing 5 kilograms in 2 weeks through an ancient herb from the mountains of Peru, or winning money from a mysterious Nigerian good Samaritan. All of these offers appeal because they are instant and easy.

Instead of making short-term sacrifices for the sake of our long term goals, we have another slice of cake, another beer, or purchase the must-have, latest fashions. Gym memberships go unused. People text while they are driving. We put off quitting smoking for another week. We assume that there will be a moment in the future when we will find the time, the self-control, or the motivation; even when putting something off may mean we have to grapple with a much larger problem in the future.

Despite our inability to make purely rational decisions for the benefit of our future, humans are the only animals that think about the future; but thinking about the future is different from actually living it. It’s hard to imagine yourself in the future. Our minds always tell us that we will beat the odds; bad things happen to other people, never to us. That is, until they do.

The body functions without us having to think about it. The tough part is that we don’t realise this is the case until it breaks down. A heart attack at 50 is a reminder that over-indulgence, alcohol, stress, and cigarettes take their toll. For some of us, that reminder comes a lot earlier in our stories. As a type 1 diabetic, I spend my life trying to imitate the intricate, delicate balance that comes naturally to everyone else. Ten years since diagnosis; years in which I’ve had depression, competed in triathlons, had my heart broken, broken hearts myself, and worked in rural Cambodia; I still haven’t decided whether I’m lucky or not. I’m still trying to define myself in this world, and fighting against diabetes defining me.

Diabetes is the best and worst thing that has ever happened to me. I never want anyone that I love to know what it is like to live with diabetes. I do want the people I love to know that they are not like me. They don’t live with a fear of an annual retinal exam; wondering if this will be the year that they find something, whether this will be the year that they tell me that I’m going blind. Diabetes is scary. Will I ever be able to have children? Will I go blind? Will I need a kidney transplant? Will I have to have a foot, or even a whole leg, amputated? Will I pass it on to my children? Will I have a critical hypo that I don’t wake up from? Will I end up on dialysis? Unless I make hard, disciplined decisions today, my future may entail a myriad of health problems.

There are days when I get angry that the other runners out there aren’t diabetic; that their run isn’t a rollercoaster of trying to balance sugar levels. That some days they don’t have to abandon a run because their body is unpredictable and it’s too dangerous to push it. They are not like me, they are not the same. Yet, we all face our own demons. We all know the difference between healthy and unhealthy behaviours. We all battle against ourselves, fighting to be mature, to be better, to treat our bodies and ourselves with the respect they deserve. But visualising the future is hard; seeing even a generation into the future is blurry. Perhaps that’s why out planet is in such an awful state already – if we can’t imagine ourselves in 50 years, how can we possibly imagine the consequences of carbon emissions on our children’s children?

So, I no longer want to wake up with the perfect body and be fabulously thin. I want to be strong; strong enough to make the hard decisions. As someone once told me ‘if you be easy on yourself life is hard, if you be hard on yourself life is easy’. Maybe today is the day to start being hard on yourself, your future may just thank you for it.

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