The Importance of Having Something to Look Forward to

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It’s a new year, and as I venture into it, I can’t help wondering what’s in store. Or if I’ll be able to feel as good about this year as I do about this past one.

I won’t say 2023 was perfect, it wasn’t. No year can be. I had my struggles and my stresses. Many things did not turn out the way I wanted them to. I have many new leaves to turn over, bad habits I have yet to shake, as I brave 2024.

Even so, I got a job that was way more consistent than all the freelance and contract work I’ve been doing previously. I think I earned more money in 2023 than I have in any year before it.

I also went on an extended trip to Japan. Probably my crowning achievement of 2023 and a source of countless memories I will cherish for a lifetime. It was incredible. I’m so glad I did it.

But do I have anything like that to look forward to in 2024?

I had a feeling, even when I was still in the middle of it, that my Japan trip would take up this kind of space in my mind. I wondered and worried if this would become something I kept looking back on, longing to be back in the past instead of looking forward to the future. I do find myself doing that sometimes. I do want to go back to Japan someday, and I’m sure if I can I’ll find the chance to do it, but I also have no idea if I’ll ever be able to take a trip like the one I did this past year. I’m aware it may have been a once-in-a-lifetime thing. I try to focus on the good parts of that, and not worry about what’s passed me by.

Still, I feel envious when I hear about people currently taking trips, not just to Japan but to other places. Even people planning trips. I look back at my journal entries for this time last year, when I was deep into trip planning and Japan was imminent, and feel jealous of myself. The tragedy of all good times is that we cannot linger in them. They pass us by, and even when we live them to their fullest there is regret in knowing they’ve passed.

It’s not a bad thing to revisit good memories, even frequently. That’s what we made those memories for in the first place. But to linger on, and cling to, these memories too fiercely can be damaging. Nothing can measure up to an imagined blissful past. And it is imagined. There are always struggles, and imperfections, that are so much easier to gloss over once they are only blurry images in our mental rearview mirror.

I want to look towards the future. And to do that, I want to have something to look forward to. But I admit I’m still unsure. I have plenty of obligations this year, some of which will last for longer than I initially imagined. It can be hard to sit down and plan out something frivolous when you have so many other things to worry about.

But I hope I can find something. I want to go to Denmark sometime soon, I think. I’m basing the setting of a book I’m writing loosely on medieval Denmark, so I’d like to think such a trip could be good research. I’m not sure if I can do it this year, but perhaps next year? Though next year feels far too hazy on the horizon. I need something sooner. I just hope I can figure out what that can be.

And I hope my little musings here can remind you to give yourself something to look forward to so that you don’t catch yourself always looking behind.


Rachel is a Jewish bisexual autistic woman (she/her) with ADHD in her twenties. She loves writing and can always be found with her nose in a book! Her plan for the future is to earn her Psy. D. in clinical psychology. This interested in psychology started as a way to help her understand people better and to figure out what it was about others I kept not getting. It is also something deeply linked with her self-advocacy. There is a gap in communication between the autistic community and providers, and she want to help bridge it and challenge others to see things from different perspectives.

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