When I stopped living in the past and stopped thinking about the future, living in the moment became so much easier to do.
I’m not going to lie to you, for the past few months, I’ve been feeling a little bit…stuck. I had and still have, a lot of thoughts in my head; things that once used to seem so easy were suddenly difficult. I tried to tap into who I used to be; a reflective person who was constantly learning. So, I tried to focus on my past mistakes and learn from them, until my reflecting became regretting. My feelings of regret slowly turned into wallowing in my “imperfections.” I was trying too hard to be the person I once was; I was comparing myself to somebody that no longer existed. But what I didn’t realize was that that driven person, wasn’t who I was meant to remain as. I often joke about hitting my peak in high school, but now realize how that was a transitional stage. I was still figuring things out, and the only reason I thought I had things figured out back then was that I was the person everybody else wanted me to be.
Instead of focusing on the past, I decided to look to the future. I started making goals for myself.
I thought about the things I wanted to change in my life, what I wanted those negatives to transform into, and asked myself how I could achieve my goals. And for a while, this started to work. I was thriving. But then, life caught up with me, as it does, and I started to slip up. I would beat myself up over every single mistake I made, and it was as if I went one step forward and 21 steps backward. The cycle continued until I forced myself to cut myself some slack. I came up with fewer goals, and a game plan for when I slipped up; I couldn’t keep giving up on myself for making one little mistake.
And then I made short-term goals. Instead of planning out the rest of my life, I started planning out each day. I had to stop thinking about what next year was going to look like; most of my friends were leaving or graduating, I was going to be in different classes and clubs, and so much more. I started to force myself to prepare for future changes, and I did this by isolating myself and being extremely bitter about everything in my life. I did all of this in hopes that it would make me less sad and afraid because those were my “worst case scenario feels” that I had imagined for next year. And if I already forced myself to feel that way now, wouldn’t it hurt less next year? Wrong. Protip: forcing yourself to acknowledge your fears doesn’t make them go away.
This is when I started focusing on the present. And I didn’t even know I was doing that until now.
Instead of focusing on change, I decided that I was going to enjoy the last few weeks of the semester. I started going to bed thinking about all the fun and productive things I did that day and all the great people I talked to. I took more photos, wrote longer and happier journal entries, and ate more veggies. I still allowed myself to be scared and cry about next year but made sure to ask for support when I needed it.
I wrote about what I was thankful for each day and started living in the moment. While I would envision what the next day held, I would stop there, and try not to think about what next month looked like.
I’m not saying that my fears have disappeared. I’m scared as hell. I’m scared that nothing will be the same. I am scared to imagine life without my best friends being a few steps away. I am scared of the future. I am scared that I will become somebody I am not, or even worse, somebody that I don’t know.
As humans, we are taught to expect and prepare for the worst; it’s natural to be scared of change. But something that gives me comfort and helps me prepare for change and the fear that comes with it is knowing that I know how to live in the moment, appreciate life’s ups and downs, and see the silver lining.