The Future Is Completely Open

The future is completely open, and we are writing it moment to moment.” ~Pema Chodron

This quote reminds me of the song “Into the Great Wide Open” by Tom Petty. I play that song in my yoga class a lot these days. I love the freedom in it, the expansiveness, the hope.

My future is completely open and I am writing it moment by moment.

Phew! This feels good!

For a long time, I thought my future was pre-ordained.

My dad died at 38 when I was 8. What was I supposed to think besides this is when we die: at age 38.

Today is my birthday. Today I turn 37.

I was never able to visualize my future.

People would ask what I wanted to be when I grew up and I couldn’t answer. Nothingness on my end. Blank stares. Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t a morbid kid; I just saw a black cloud or fuzz or nothing when people asked me questions regarding any moment beyond the present. And yet, I was not present. It was a conundrum to say the least.

But you are such a great writer, Jen. You should be a writer when you grow up, Jen.

Nothing. Couldn’t imagine it.

Stop talking to me about my future. I already know what will happen and it doesn’t involve me writing.

I didn’t know what exactly happened when you turned 38 except: you didn’t exist anymore, so how in the heck was I going to be a writer?

I got a little older and a little wiser, and yet still, I couldn’t plan for anything. People would ask me what I was doing for the summer and I would have a panic attack.

I had a very hard time being able to imagine myself beyond the chair I was sitting in.

It was like I had a crippling fear of planning a future, any future at all, because I knew what was in store for me. I didn’t know when my time would come, but I knew it was in my genes.

I realized that I had a deep core belief that happiness was taken away from you.

Or let me rephrase: from me.

So why would I want to plan anything when it would be taken away from me? When my future was already written? My dad died at 38 from a stroke and I sat by on the sofa waiting for him to come. Instead they brought a box of Dunkin’ Donuts.

I still grapple with this. At times, I struggle with the feeling that my happiness is about to come to a crashing end.

Even though I am a successful yoga teacher who leads all these retreats all over the world, there is still a part of me that is scared to death I am doomed—that my future is already written.

And you can bet your best downward facing dog that I fight tooth and nail to keep this demon at bay.

So here I am about to turn 37.

Pema Chodron’s quote falls into my lap and I decide to take the bull by the horns. I am writing my future. I am writing it this very moment.

In fact I will write it a letter. I suggest you do the same.

It can go something like this:

Dear Future,

Here I am, writing you. Moment by moment. Let me tell you how excited I am that I have finally decided to love you. I know I have been on and off again with you. Mostly off. And frankly, I have been a bit cruel and ignored you often. But here I am. You are open and I am accepting!

I wanted to let you know that I will meet you there.

I will meet you with open arms. And I would like you to be prepared for I am about to take the world by storm.

Love, (insert your name here.)

I am about to turn 37 and in some ways feel profoundly sad. It has been almost 30 years now since my dad passed. He truly was my soul mate. And I am starting to forget. My memories have become memories of memories.

I also feel sad that my dad’s last full year of life was his 37th.

So, in honor of all that, I plan on living it up.

I mean, it’s wide open, right? The future?

I am traveling the world. I am laughing as much as I can. I am drinking wine. I am taking pictures. I am telling people I love that I love them. A lot. I am eating cheese after years of starving myself. I am taking risks. I am releasing all feelings of guilt. I am connecting more to my family.

I am doing all the things I know he would have done. Or at least wanted me to do.

We write the future moment to moment.

So I ask you: What did you decide about yourself before you realized that the future isn’t a narrow doorway leading back to the same old room, but rather a wide open field leading to the greatest version of yourself you could possibly imagine?

I urge you: Write down on a piece of paper your old version of your future that is without possibility and hope, and, as we do in my workshops, tear it up.

Put it in a pile. And label it: A Pile of ______.

I will let you fill in that blank.

It’s wide open.

Go for it. The future is yours.

Photo by Josep Ma Rosell

About Jennifer Pastiloff

Jen is the founder of Manifestation Yoga. She teaches yoga all over. Find her on Twitter and Facebook. She also started GAME Yoga. Gifts And Miracles Everyday: Free Yoga for Kids w/ Special Needs.

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  • Happy beautiful birthday.  I’m sorry for your loss and CELEBRATING your wisdom as well.  I wrote a piece not long ago that addresses this very fear you revealed.  I hope it is helpful, love.  Jennifer

  • Barbara Potter

    Love your writing Jen. Happy Birthday to you. You have indeed taken the bull by the horns and he is taking you on one heck of a wild ride. Enjoy the trip. Love you.

  • Hi Jennifer — THis is a timely post for me. I’ve been thinking a lot about that “black cloud or fuzz,” as you put it (I think of it as a dark curtain). For me, that’s the image of a future perceived as limited by age, poor health or even just a negative, self-absorbed attitude.

    I wake up every day thanking God that that curtain has not yet appeared for me. My fondest hope is that it never will, that, as I age, my hopes and expectations will continually adjust to my abilities.

    Thanks for the thoughtful — and thought-provoking — post!

  • Marcy Hino

    Jennifer, I feel with you. My father passed away when he was only 32, and I was 10. It makes this ‘what’s in the future’ hard to imagine, but not in a morbid kind of way!

  • Fab post, Jennifer.  While my father’s passing was recent – this past February – he lived a hard live working up until the time he died and I often wonder if that’s how he wanted it or if he had a desire to change things.

    Our future is wide open and we need to embrace it and write our own destiny.  Thank you for this very timely post.

  • Emily

    Living with a mental illness is a balancing act. Since being diagnosed, I have tried to remain aware of it’s huge presence in my life and to stay healthy, while fighting depression and a “what’s the point of this” feeling.
    This helped reinforce to me today that there is a reason to be present. I am my own person, and my future is mine to create. Thank you!

  • Love this post.  Wonderful and unique.  Love your letter to your Future. 
    Sounds like you’re living life well, in memory and honor of your father; and of course for yourself as well. 
    Good living to you always.

  • Kiyoko80

    Thank you for this piece. Its exactly how Ive been feeling scared to do things because I always expect something bad to happen…Its as if you were writing this for me. I loved it

  • Solartatcutie

    Thank you for sharing! I was able to have my life dream for 4yrs & then it was gone due to a separation between my business partner. It has been almost a year & have felt like “why bother ?” with trying something else b/c it might be taken away or someone else will turn out to be someone other than what I thought they were. Dealing with depression & separation make it hard to just jump right back on the horse.
    Even within my 4yrs, I was always worried & waiting for the rug to be pulled out from under me. So I could relate to your story.

  • thank you for reading and taking the time to comment. I suffered from depression and I know firsthand how truly challenging it can be. That is why we need reminders like this site and a good network of friends and positive people. I am here. blessings~~

  • I was writing for you. 😉

  • Thank you! I would love to hear your letter to the future. It is so fun. 

  • Yes yes yes! Keep saying that to yourself … ”  am my own person, and my future is mine to create. Thank you!”and keep saying the thank you most importantly 😉

  • Thank you for sharing your story. Let’s write our destinies indeed.

  • Isn’t it interesting? We are so shaped by our childhoods. That is the work…. Deciding when we can let our subconscious beliefs be re-programmed. Yay!

  • The key is that you wake up every day thanking God.
    Keep doing that. it is what gets me through a lot of days xx

  • Yayababic

    No one is better prepared to live an exciting future than you Jennifer, for you have being living solely in the present for 30 some years, afraid of what will come, but nevertheless, in the present. That’s what we need to learn and that’s why we are constantly creating our future without even knowing. Whatever you do NOW is paving the road for tomorrow. Time, contrary to what we all think, is not linear, with past, present and future. It is but a succession of constant NOWS what creates the sensation of time passing in front of our eyes. Live well every NOW, and you’ll have a good potential FUTURE. The past is behind us, the future is not here yet, all we have is the present. And that’s where I’m learning to dwell, more and more. So go ahead and turn 38, 39, 40 and 100, with the certainty that you are creating all those future years ahead of you, right this moment…

  • Solartatcutie

    Thanks 🙂 I lost my local support due to the separation. So I have my Facebook friends, family & tiny buddha to help. It means a lot that you replied. Happy holidays!

  • Means a lot to me that you are here on this earth x

  • Kelly

    Happy Birthday! Totally interesting post! My father died at 40 from cancer and I just turned 40.  I find it mind boggling just how young that really is and the fact that one day very soon I will be older than my father ever was.  What the heck is my brain going to do with that?!  I think it’s why I also have a hard time getting close to people and trusting them.

  • I totally relate! Wow. It’s like we share a brain 😉

  • Hi Jennifer,

    This was not my experience, but I do know people who were affected by the early death of their parent and as they approach the same age, feeling uncertain about their future. It’s wonderful that you are addressing your feelings. I love your letter to the future – especially this line – I wanted to let you know that I will meet you there.  The good news is that although we come from our parents, we are our own unique selves and our life will be our own, not a duplicate of some one who came before us. Your yoga retreats sound interesting – good for you!

  • thank you Cathy! You should come to one of the retreats 😉 
    I appreciate you commenting so much.

  • Tinarose29

    I thought I knew waht my future was going to be like, I’d be successful, married and living it up….fat chance!!! Life happened and all my dreams sort of disappered in a day because of a stupid decision I made, so here I am turning 35 next year and having to re-write my future or is it just accept what the future has in store for me. I used to be scared of the future but I am now looking forward to an exciting 2012 and more, can’t wait for this year to end….HAIL THE FUTURE XX

  • This made me smile!!! Not that your dreams disappeared but your grace in accepting the future as being yours to declare!

  • Tinarose29

    I’m glad it made you smile Jennifer, hope you have am wonderful Christmas and a bright future xx

  • Tinarose29

    ‘a wonderful’ Christmas, lol. I really should check my spelling before I post things x

  • beautifully written. its a pleasure to read your experiences. humans do get scared while predicting there future without knowing the reality that future is not what we have forecasted.

  • Stephanie


    Words can’t describe how happy I was to find this post.  I recently ended a long term relationship and have been having a difficult time adjusting to dating, living alone and facing life as a 30 yr. single woman.  I was struggling with so many emotions and just felt confused with focusing on so much uncertainty.  This morning was especially challenging and then I stumbled on this post.  It resonated so much that I had to stop reading mid-post and walk away.  My father passed away when he was 44.  I’m convinced I’ll follow a similar fate.  However, until today I never realized that I too couldn’t answer the question of where do you see yourself in 5 years and how the people I surrounded myself with were in exactly the same state.   It put so many things into perspective for me and really made me feel awake.  It’s terrifying facing such a deep rooted fear but somehow I don’t feel sad anymore.  Now that I’m aware I’m trying to figure out what to do next, but I just wanted to thank you for sharing your experience.  It truly made an impact for me.


  • BarbaraManuelPotter

    Love this.

  • Anonynous

    Doing all that stuff will not make you happy. Doing all that stuff your Dad would have “wanted” you to do will not make you happy.
    Expectations, responsibility, and accountability all await you.
    The moment you stop wanting anything is the moment you grow up.
    And I know you won’t post this, so consider it an exercise in detachment.