I think about future proofing a lot in my profession. When we bring some new equipment or software into the schools, I want to be sure I get good value. I believe it’s wise to “buy up” most of the time so we are not forced to replace quickly. Basically, I don’t like “band-aid solutions” that only fix problems for the short term. I’ve trained myself over the last eighteen years in this role to behave strategically. This habit of mind has served me really well and made me pretty successful at what I do. But, it’s been a real barrier when parenting Koan.
As I’ve written before, preconceptions can really get in the way of doing the right thing for someone like Koan. So, I am working continually to reshape and redefine my thoughts along these lines. But, there are some important practical considerations that must be addressed. Jeri and I just finished revising our estate plan and setting up a trust/life plan for Koan. Normally, this type of work would be right in my wheelhouse. But, given the general unpleasant nature of this former task — contemplating the world after my own death — the complete uncertainty of the latter — what Koan will be able to do and what the world will look like when he’s an adult — made this a really difficult. We needed to write a letter of intent for Koan — a projection of our wishes for him in 10, 20, 30, or 40 years. As with most challenging work, it was worthwhile and full of opportunities to learn. And, as I get older, I realize that these types of challenges that involve learning are so rewarding and meaningful. Ultimately, they bring great joy. It’s funny, I don’t look forward to these types of processes and I may even feel dread before starting, but as I’m engaged I find there’s something empowering and affirming. I don’t want to go into detail extolling the power of life-long learning — something I believe in very much. But, there’s no denying that having someone like Koan in my life as provided a much more active and invigorating learning environment for me. That’s truly a gift.
But, there’s something else that’s complex about future proofing for Koan for me personally. The really difficult part is grappling with uncertainty. We just don’t know at what level Koan will be capable of functioning in the future. I have spent a lot of time worrying about various scenarios — imagining worst cases. Trying to figure out how to avoid these. This is a precursor task to do something like a letter of intent. Given my profession, this is a very comfortable and familiar style of thinking. And, while it’s not worthless or completely counter-productive for Koan, it’s a game of diminishing returns. These future obstacles are good to be aware of, but should not be dwelled upon. Certainly, the negative emotions of worry and fear don’t help anyone, me included. The way I dealt with this up until very recently was rather simplistically and antithetical to my default style. I would say to myself — “No one is guaranteed another hour, day, or week.” Basically avoiding the negative thoughts by thinking the future is unknowable. This was helpful. It did make me focus much more on the present and the moment. As a strategic thinker by nature, I do have the tendency to live more in the future than in the present. Again, this was a gift Koan has given me.
The recent work to start codifying our hopes for Koan’s future has made me understand that my previous way of looking at things for him — only focusing on the present — is insufficient. I need to work to develop a new set of skills. It’s not responsible or right for me to only think about today for him and rely on my wits and the structures around me to work through emergent problems — which are what all problem are when you don’t plan. I need to develop a hybrid perspective now. I now must focus on more specific goals order to make this happen for Koan, but I cannot get sucked down the black hole of “what ifs” that are so counterproductive. This will be an uncomfortable and difficult process. I’m framing this as an opportunity to learn.