Have you ever been dreaming, fast asleep, and the plot line of your dream is so intense that it wakes you up?
Is that really a thing? I mean, you always see movie characters bolt upright, eyes wide, clutching blankets to their chests and exhaling with relief. But does it happen often in real life?
I don’t know how common it is, but it did happen to me. I had a dream like that and I wrote it down as soon I caught my breath. Here’s the journal entry.
I am in a concrete stairwell, and I have to climb endless flights of stairs to reach a room on the top floor. I must get there quickly, but I can’t seem to make progress no matter how hard I try. I’m exhausted. I carry a heavy bag of equipment and hold a long rope in one hand.
Someone I pass on the stairs shares a secret. She tells me to stop climbing so painfully. She points out my baggage is slowing me down. Instead, she says matter-of-factly, just throw one end of your rope to your future self. She’s been waiting at the top of the stairs for you.
Imagine that, I think. I decide to heed her advice. So I stand in the center of the stairwell, squinting up at the light, and toss one end of my rope skyward. It extends up and up — then, against all odds, it suddenly pulls taut.
I’ve got you, I feel my future self telling me. Hold on. Come this way. I’m pulling you up.
And I rocket upward. It is exhilarating and effortless. I am weightless, free, and full of wonder and delight. I reach the top floor in no time. There she is. Of course she was waiting all along.
In my dream, I had one moment of eye contact with my future self before I woke. In that split second, she saw right through me, clearly, through all my bullshit. She didn’t judge, but I did feel her gaze burning into me, counting on me to make the right decisions for her. Something about meeting her, about feeling the weight of my responsibility to her, blasted me the eff out of sleep and straight upright in my bed.
That was pretty bizarre for me. And so, naturally, it stayed with me for a long time. I felt like I truly met that person. That future version of me. She and I collided, and the impact hasn’t left me since.
The optimist in me believes firmly that my future self is wiser and more successful than I am. And I also know that I owe her my best effort. When I’m lost, or stuck, I imagine her standing there waiting. Watching me. Generally, whenever I consider my impact on her, I seem to make better decisions.
Ever since my dream, I also sometimes think of Past Me. The even more flawed person I used to be. For every lesson in my life that’s stuck, I have a naïve version of myself to thank for making big, crappy mistakes and learning from them.
Here’s what I’ve decided since my dream. The future me at the top of the stairs was a lot like the light at the end of the tunnel. And the light at the end of the tunnel isn’t random. It represents relief. Knowledge. Problems solved. Stress relieved. Completion. Achievement. That light is no less than the brighter light you’ll be shining tomorrow, if you move toward it today.
When I’m willing to let my guard down long enough to feel it, there is a powerful pull between my wisdom today and my decisions yesterday. The person I am right now is the light at the end of the tunnel for the old me. Hold on, I’m whispering to her. Come this way. I’m pulling you forward.
For your own journey? You know exactly what you need to do. The answers are right in front of you. Turn to face the right direction. All you need is a deep breath, and a single step forward.
Call me crazy, but my future self is in charge now. I trust her wisdom: I feel it in my gut every time I make a decision. I’m not going to let her down. And I know this: in return, she’s going to rocket me skyward.
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