Future Imperfect

Paris, August 2009

You want to be useful, you do not feel fulfilled when you idle. That’s how I feel. I usually feel better about myself if I manage to attain some kind of productivity, but it is a constant tussle between what I really want to focus on and tasks that I need to complete. One windy morning after some heavy rainfall the previous evening, I saw an eagle and then another large bird soaring high. What are they ? I take it as a good sign.

It helps to start a day with a ritual whether it is drinking two cups of water, making that cup of coffee to kick start your morning or just writing your morning pages or making a note about the errands you need to do for the day. You have to wake up knowing what you have to do. It helps if I do not look at my phone and start scrolling. I know our dog is waiting and you just have to get yourself out of your warm bed. In many ways, walking the dog as part of my morning ritual has been a good one. Not only I get some fresh air, take in the surroundings and get my heart pumping, I love to look at the huge trees in the neighbourhood.

A young colleague is thinking about pursuing postgraduate studies. She asked a colleague who has been in practice for several years. Right now, you have nothing to lose as you have not gotten a career.  She was told. I guess what our colleague meant is you have not really started working since you were just a trainee before this .  But why do we give such emphasis about career path ?  Isn’t that just another idea that the society has coined to make us want to be there? Many of us do quite a fair bit of paper shuffling for a living. In this digital age, we are increasingly bolt down with red tape and bureaucracy, and things have become more regimented, tedious and pedantic. With remote learning and working, certain conversations and exchange of ideas during a face-to-face conversation will not happen. I can see why many young people would like to open cafés. People are usually happy when they are hanging out with friends at some restaurants and cafés, eating and drinking. You wonder what if you were a sommelier, a barista or a chef. Of course that is only if you had discerning tastebuds where you could tell all the flavours and possess the ability to differentiate all the different aromas and scents in that wine or dish. It is fun to cook for your children, it may no longer be fun to cook under a lot of pressure. Ultimately you have to do something that you know you have a strong passion for and you will be good at or have a chance of getting good at it. Then you persevere and after several years, you feel you are not getting there, do you give up or do you keep going? When there is a will there is a way so you soldier on. Maybe you are looking into the wrong window. You never know really, you just have to trust your own judgment.

Lennon Wall, Prague

I do not think I know what to tell a young person. The only young person whom I know what to say is me if I could travel back in time. That is because I have finally got to know myself better. I suppose life is about expecting the unexpected and we need to be flexible and adaptable. Life may seem unfair but if you think about it , it is unfair to everyone. There will always be disappointments and imperfections in one’s life but we know we are grateful for those other good times and happy encounters.

I just have to keep reminding myself that you have to get out of your comfort zone, there will never be a perfect time for wanting to do what you really want. Was that Woody Allen who said that 80% of the success is showing up? But what does that even mean? Years ago I came across this play ‘So You want to be a lawyer : A Play in Four Acts‘ by Nicholas Johnson. In that play the quote ‘Show up’ by Woody Allen is mentioned in the dialogues between the professor and the student. The professor is impressing on the student that it is important to show up in class. There is this speech that I can relate to.

 The professor tells the students,

I help students edit the seminar papers they give me. I explain to them that proof reading is their job, that Blue Book citation form is important. And yet I not only find obvious typographical grammatical errors in their so-called “ final drafts,” students sometimes even fail to make the corrections I have pointed out to them when they do the revision!

Do that once or twice at a top quality law firm and you’ll find yourself out on the street.’

Some years ago, a staff once told my partner why she had to quit because I made her type the same letter several times, she did not appreciate that they were typographical errors that I had wanted her to correct. There were times I had decided to rephrase certain sentences and she had to come back with typographical and grammatical errors. It is not uncommon for staff and I found that was something they should work on. If they were asked to use a typewriter, they might have been more careful, the word processor has since made corrections too easy. I do often proof read the drafts before printing them out. At times I find that a letter can somehow read differently on printed paper.

I have since learnt that the letter does not have to be perfectly written so long as the essence has been conveyed to the recipient and of course it should be devoid of typographical and grammatical errors. Similarly when I write a post for my blog, I need to be aware of how much time I spend on crafting that post and stop trying to perfect every sentence.

I have recently read two books by the same title. Future Perfect by Jen Larsen and Future Perfect by Felicia Yap.

Future Perfect by Felicia Yap is a science fiction thriller that was released this year. It is a page-turner, a compelling read if you are into science fiction. The story spans from the snowy 1980s Montana to 1990s Manhattan to a drone-filled 2030s Britain.

What if there were an iPredict app who could give you forecasts for the day, would you want it ? It is 8 June 2030. the Police Commissioner Christian Verger cannot believe that iPredict tells him that he has a 99.74% chance of dying the next day. In case iPredict is correct, he needs to tell his fiancée Viola that he loves her. The day has begun badly. Viola has left him and their voice assistant, Alexa has been acting up. When he asks for a single expresso with two sugars, Alexa’s voice is disapproving ‘ as far as a voice assistant can sound disapproving‘ Alexa serves him a cappuccino and insists that he always has a cappuccino in the morning and that he should be taking less sugar to minimise blood sugar spikes given ‘recent sleep metrics and health data‘. As Christian checks his Work app and finds that there are 148 notifications and five missed calls from his advisor, an e-pigeon lands on the balcony ledge holding a special delivery. It is a letter from Viola. Only then he realises that his fiancée has moved out. There has been some tension between them and she needs some space apart to work out where their relationship stands. She has taken her cat, KitKat and most of her belongings. She does not know why her fiancé is calling Ella’s name and talks in his sleep. Ella must be a ghost from his past and he is evasive when she asks him. In the meantime, Christian is in a race to solve a crime. A bomb has exploded during a fashion show, killing a beautiful model on the catwalk and they have to find the murderer. The much celebrated fashion designer Alexander King is not postponing his fashion show scheduled to be held in London that very evening despite what happened during his show held in Manhattan the previous evening. Christian wants to survive the day and comes clean with Viola about his tumultuous past that explains who Ella is.

The fiction is narrated in the first person voice of the characters and through their individual narratives, you get to know each character and the internal conflicts each of them has to struggle with. There are full of surprises for the reader along the way. As the story unfolds, you get to put together pieces of information like working on a jigsaw puzzle. Felicia Yap has woven together a futuristic story that is also a story about love and friendships. Technology could advance, the core of humanity remains, very smart and captivating read.

Felicia Yap grew up in Kuala Lumpur. She read biochemistry at Imperial College London, before achieving a doctorate in history (and a half-blue in competitive ballroom dancing) at Cambridge University. She has written for The Economist and The Business Times. She has also worked as a radioactive-cell biologist, a war historian, a Cambridge lecturer, a technology journalist, a theatre critic, a flea-market trader and a catwalk model. 

Future Perfect is the author’s second novel. Yesterday was her debut novel. In Yesterday written by Felicia Yap , there are only two categories of people. Monos, the majority , have only one day memory while the elite Duos have two days’ worth of memory. They have to record their days in their iDiaries so they can have a memory of some kind. The question is: Can one be  truthful in their account of their everyday? Yesterday is a story about love between two people even though their union is disapproved  by the society they live in. It is also about memories and what we choose to believe and things that  we could remember but must forget. It is another compelling read.

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Future Perfect by Jen Larsen is a coming-of-age story set in California. In the story, every year on her birthday, Ashley Perkins gets a card from her grandmother. Every year Ashley’s card also contains a promise, lose enough weight, grandmother will give her something. For instance, 75 pounds for a shopping trip in Paris. Ashley does not think there is anything wrong with her physique or her looks. She is big but she is happy with her body. Her grandmother wants her to lose weight thinking that she will have a better future. Ashley is a brilliant student and she dreams of going to Harvard. She wants to be like her grandmother who is a surgeon. This year, Grandmother offers her the one thing she really wants : four years worth of tuition fee to attend Harvard University if she gets weight-loss surgery. Ashley is grateful to her grandmother for caring for her and her father since her mother left them. She studies hard and works part-time as a server at a busy restaurant in the neighbourhood. But she does not want to get weight-loss surgery.

Ashley’s good friends are also going through issues of their own. Jolene is a transgender and her parents disapprove of her choice and identity . Laura is free-spirit and wants to pursue her interest in art while her dad wants her to go to college. The story is about being comfortable in your own skin, finding your directions and knowing who you are.

Ashley is a confident teenager. As she grapples with what others think and she knows that her grandmother only wants what is best for her as she loves her, she agonises about taking up her grandmother’s offer. Ultimately she decides to stay true to herself , believes in herself and not affected by how others may view her. It’s about embracing your body image.

Its author, Jen Larsen has first written and published Stranger Here, a memoir that is about her struggle with being overweight. There is a similarity between Larsen and Ashley. Future Perfect is about self-possession and believing in yourself, a necessary trait for everyone.

2 thoughts on “Future Imperfect

  1. Yes to morning routines and to being productive instead of choosing laziness—even though the latter is so much more appealing. The way I know which decision is good for me is that the ones that benefit my future are seldom filled with regret. Watching Netflix? Bingeing on video games? Eating too much sugar? Those definitely make me feel crappy, and that’s the only way I know how to navigate my choices, lol. Thanks for this post!

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    1. Hi Stuart, Thanks for reading the post and your comment. From reading your posts and your book, I feel you know what you want and you set out to do it. I’m a natural bum and far from being focused. I used to drink so much coffee just to keep up with my reading and fit in my other interests amidst work, home and errands. Now with writing i feel that I cannot slack off, and it is a craft that requires grinding. We only have this much of energy, we need to narrow down what we really want to spend time on and be calculating .But having said that down time is necessary too hence Incorporating some leisure time into our daily schedule can be beneficial to our well being.

      Liked by 1 person

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