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  • Destenie Nock

WWYPSD: What would your past self do?

Updated: May 6, 2020

When life gets you down sometimes you got to stop and ask WWYPSD? In other words "What Would Your Past Self Do?"

May 4, 2020 by Destenie Nock


When life gets you down and you are wondering how to get happy again there is one person that has more answers than we give them credit for. Who, you ask! Well it is none other than Your Past Self. During one of my interviews on the faculty circuit I was talking with some of the graduate students when one said, "You sound so positive. Do you ever get down, or stressed out? How do you stay so positive?" I have actually been asked then question many times. Life is stressful and it can be difficult/impossible to stay positive 24/7. In truth I have my good days and bad days just like everyone else (especially during COVID-19). When I find myself going through a series of bad days that's when I have the following conversation with the old me also known as (aka) my past self:

  • Current Me: "Hey Old Me, I’ve been feeling kind of down...”

  • Old Me: "Yea I what do you wanna do about it?"

  • Current Me: "Well I think something should change."

  • Old Me: "You got that right, cause at this rate it's not looking too good for Future Me."

  • Current Me:"Well if you were me what would you do?"

  • Old Me: "Oh I don't know why don't you try going to the gym, calling a family member, or ______? I find all of those things make me happy."

  • Current Me:"Those sound fun...but I am so busy right now."

  • Old Me: "Hey you only get one life, doing something you love for 30 minutes isn't going to kill you.....I mean us."

Sometimes it can be a pretty long conversation, but it can reveal so much. As we grow and change we turn into different versions of ourselves and sometimes we lose sight of the things that used to make us really happy.

I lost sight of myself in the second year of graduate school when everything seemed like an uphill battle. I forgot why I decided to get a PhD in the first place, and was thinking of leaving. After some thought I realized that I used to love volunteering to tutor math to elementary students. I have always wanted to be a teacher, and working with students used to give me a sense of purpose. In the beginning of my third year I became outreach co-chair of the graduate women in STEM (GWIS), and started volunteering to work with local girl scout troops.

I had to have this conversation again when I was on the job market. I was stressed about finishing my projects, my future career, and the amount of money I was spending during all of the traveling. On top of that during the interviews I was supposed to project confidence and show people the real me, which in general is a positive happy person (when i am not stressed about meeting 24 people over a two day interview). The longer the person I was projecting to the world (aka Outter Me) was disconnected from how I felt (aka Inner Me), the more stressed I became. The solution was simple...go to the gym. Before the job interview cycle I used to go to the gym twice a day. Then during interviews I felt like I never had time. Waking up 30 minutes earlier and getting in a quick workout before a 8-13 hour interview really made the difference in my mental sanity.

So when life gets you down remember to stop and ask "WWYPSD: What would your past self do?" Your past self knows more tips for your success than I could ever put in this blog. If you are having difficulty finding your past self it may also answer to “the old me” or “happier me”.

Also while it may be helpful to ask your Past Self what would make you happy, remember our Past and Current Selves are not always the best judge of the time constraints for our Future Selves. Many times when we are stressed out it is because our Current self thinks that Future Self will have ample amounts of free time. Eventually the Future Self will have to answer for all of the promises made by the Current Self. So when our Current Self transforms into our Past Self and our Future Self becomes our Current Self, there is a huge dilemma if the estimates of time capabilities are off. The best thing you can do for your mental health is to be kind to your future self. By caring for your Future Self will allow yourself to become a better version of you. This will ensure that you will have more energy and be a happier person for many years to come.

Remember...Be kind to your Future Self

Good luck in your journey, and thanks for reading!

Note about the author: Dr. Destenie Nock is a Presidential Post-Doctoral Fellow at Carnegie Mellon University. Her Past, Current, and Future Selves are excited to become an Assistant Professor in the Fall of 2020. Past Destenie is the creator of the PhD-ing It Blog site which posts articles about graduate and undergraduate advice, and research updates in energy and sustainability, and Current Destenie manages it. In their free time Past and Current Destenie like to hit the gym, travel, and try new foods. We are still waiting to see what new hobbies Future Destenie picks up.

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