The future does not just speak, it shouts. The future has me combing through the requirements for the different mathematics major tracks at my college, biting my nails over whether applied math versus pure math might fit easier into my four-year plan. The future sets me loose on our study abroad website and says, learn French, learn Swedish, learn German, get started now, there’s no time to lose. We’re on fall break for almost a week and still the future shouts loud enough to drown everything else out: “You aren’t doing enough! What can you be doing to improve yourself? Get ahead in linear algebra. Get ahead in physics. Learn Python. Learn R. Make someone proud, for god’s sake…”

The future tells me to put aside my distaste for hypercompetitiveness. This is an opinion I have long since held, at least when that competitiveness exists to the point that it completely replaces collaboration. There is a part of me that has succumbed to it, that feels an urge to stand out in my chosen field even at the expense of my peers. One one hand, I am not so fond of this part of myself. On the other hand, it would be dangerous to quash it completely. Science is competitive by nature. Classes are competitive; research positions are competitive; job searches are competitive. The fact that it is still prohibitively difficult to raise my hand in class, to make eye contact with my professors on campus, to be proven wrong even by someone who knows better—these are not good signs. I have never considered myself a particularly prideful person, yet I find it near impossible to risk my dignity in the face of doubt. And that is practically the opposite of science! Uncountable pioneers of the scientific method are writhing in their graves as I write this!

The future tells me to overcome this, but it doesn’t tell me how. I feel as if all of my role models have been cemented in history as infallible. So how will I ever be able to understand how they figured it out, how they learned it was OK to be wrong?

The future says, “Learn to love it.”

I’m not sure what that means. ♦