Caleb’s American future
This is part of a series of interviews by Debilyn Molineaux, project director for AmericanFuture.US. The project's mission is to help everyday Americans to imagine a better future for themselves, and together we’ll write the next chapter of the United States of America.
Debilyn met Caleb Christen through her previous role at Bridge Alliance, where she encouraged him to work with another friend, Walt Roberts, who was just getting started on a collaborative project. They now co-lead the Inter-Movement Impact Project, hosting leadership forums and providing thought leadership to local organizers. Caleb and his wife, Bridget, have become friends and we socialize frequently. Still, I learned new things in our interview.
This interview has been lightly edited for clarity.
Debilyn Molineaux: This is research to imagine a future we actually want for ourselves. So this is about your preferred future, not about likely or probable futures. And to see your preferred future, we are going to time travel today -- within your current life. We recommend somewhere between two and 20 years. What sounds right for you?
Caleb Christen: I’m most excited for the two- to four-year range.
DM: Let’s take a few deep breaths as the time machine takes us to this imagined future. The time machine will whisk us forward, three years in time. You’ll observe yourself there and respond to these questions with what we see. And, here arrives our lives. Where are you in three years, as in where are you located?
CC: We are no longer in D.C., but in a college town somewhere. The frontrunner is Durham, North Carolna.
DM: Duke or UNC?
DM: As you observe your three-year-older self, what will you be most proud of?
CC: A couple things come to mind. OK, I can’t take my theological, seminary hat off, and the number one thing is that I’ve followed a discernment process, living the way God was encouraging or telling me to. And more tangibly, I’ve really leaned into the relationship side of working. I’ve been able to lean away from ego-driven inspiration to work and lean into maximizing and supporting everyone else around me.
DM: Anything you want to add beyond your spiritual or work life?
CC: Yeah, certainly. I’m proud of how I’ve grown as a husband and demonstrate my love for Bridget. And the rest of the family, too.
DM: As you observe yourself in three years, how will you spend your day?
CC: Ideally, I have a space away from daily distractions and I spend my weekdays with a reasonably deep degree of focus on the professional activities I want to accomplish. And on the weekends, I have totally flushed those things from the system and I’m entirely in the moment, not stressed, not anxious, spending time hanging out with Bridget and friends. Just doing fun outdoor, active, social activities. Do you want to be more specific?
DM: I’ll go as specific as you have it in your brain.
CC: Do you want a minute by minute?
DM: I tend to chunk it out like morning, midday, afternoon, evening.
CC: Ok, I can do that. My day starts out with a time of devotion. A productive morning, getting work done. A break to work out in the early afternoon, most days. Get some more work done in the afternoon. Creating tangible things that advance the work, writing, developing materials. Fix a nice dinner for Bridget and relax in the evening by walking, meeting friends, reading, taking care of our property, sitting around the campfire – but not screen time. And then ending the day by going to bed at a reasonable time.
DM: We’ll have to get you out to our place for a campfire! Any more detail you’d like to go into for weekends?
CC: Only in the sense that on weekends, I won’t have a schedule. We are purely living in the moment. We are free to go wherever we want to go and do whatever we want to do. We become such a slave to the clock and time that I want to get to the point on the weekends where time doesn’t matter and I’m not looking at the clock.
DM: How will you feel, most of the time, as you observe yourself in three years?
CC: If I had to summarize it in one word, that word is peaceful. In the time I’m not working, I’m enjoying the moment. When I am working, I feel relaxed, energized, refreshed. Work time is not a delay of relaxing, it’s in a good place. It’s peace, able to do what needs to be done, compartmentalization between work and personal time. Happiness, peace, joy.
DM: What will be your three (or five) priority values?
CC: I don’t spend as much time thinking about naming this for myself. I suspect they will be very similar to what they are now. Everything is centered on love and God. Integrity – being true to who I am as a person, authentic, not changing or deviating based on external pressures. Following personal values. Honesty, ethics, those kinds of things. And last would be justice – it’s a big picture thing. I’m a lawyer so the call to act in just ways, but also from theological perspective, treating each other fairly (with love), and ensuring others are in a position to be treated fairly. It should spill over to everywhere we are in all our relationships. Inherent fairness in society.
DM: For your ideal (or preferred) future to be possible, how does the community where you live support that? Or what does the community need to provide or include for your preferred future to be possible?
CC: Everything for me is grounded in encouraging relationality and community, which is exactly what I need too. Where I live would give me the opportunity to have a few close connections, who provide me with emotional support, encouragement, accountability, fun, and positive distractions from work and stress. That being said, my preferred future community is one that is centered around God and neighbor, so me being in a position to also support and be with them is equally important to me meeting my future goals. Peace and leaning into my priority values comes from being in a meaningful relationship with God, other people, creation and myself, so I need help from the community to ensure that I’m appropriately centered on all of those things ... and not just myself.
DM: Is there anything you can do today or in the near future to influence or co-create the community that will support you in late 2026?
CC: Unclear at this moment. I would like to be more active in my community, including intramural sports, local church, clubs, etc., to meet people and build community, but I am finding that difficult in light of the size, traffic, and inconveniences of D.C. ... not to mention, so many people that we know have young children or are in a different life stage than us. We are considering moving to a smaller town in hopes that it would be more conducive to community building.
I close each interview with an invitation, to spend five minutes every day, thinking about your future self, feeling those feelings and include a sense of awe and wonder. This is based on neuroscience research that shows we subconsciously create what we focus on. So the choice is ours -- we can actually co-create the future we prefer instead of choosing from the dystopian options presented to us.
If you would like to participate in this national research project, visitAmericanFuture.us.
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