Learning to live in the moment
It’s that time of the year where we start looking forward: applications for Resident Assistant/Community Leader, for Welcome Week Workers, and for January Term GO trips have been floating around for a couple weeks and housing applications for next year are drifting in the not-too-distant future. Friends have begun the distinct chatter about plans for the future, discussing rooming options, job opportunities, and service outlets. No matter where you go, you cannot find a quiet spot away from the future’s looming. Whether it’s a poster plastered on your door or a table setup in the GC, opportunities ahead clamor for attention.
With all the hub-bub about what lies ahead, it’s been easy for me to get caught up in planning out every last step I will take from now until the end of college. I get flustered, an unsettling panic laying a heavy hand on me and an ugly fear lurking that I might miss a step. On the one hand, planning for the future is a serious business that requires wisdom, foresight, and discernment; on the other hand, charting the future with precision and rigidly adhering to my map leaves no room for spontaneity.
Having two eyes unflinchingly gazed at the future leaves little room for the present. Life becomes a series of small steps toward a set goal when life will really begin. School becomes a step toward a degree which is a step toward a job. Each day is a step toward the end of school. Homework and classes are just zoomed in frames of the future I’m heading toward. The present, that precious gift from God, is swept away by the future.
College life has slowly taught me to live in the moment, with occasional glances up to make sure I’m still on course. On one particularly uninteresting Saturday afternoon, I was slowly getting some philosophy homework done when my phone buzzed with a message about going to the $2 theater to watch a movie. I ignored the message, but a few minutes later my phone rang. Recognizing that I either missed the message or ignored it, my friend wanted to make sure I knew about the movie. “Do you want to go?” he asked. I paused. I wanted to go, but I was doing homework. That spark of the moment suddenly lit up. Homework can wait–I was almost done anyways. “Sure,” I told him. That night was spent enjoying Dr. Strange on the big screen with a giant, complementary bucket of popcorn and friends.
What seems insignificant and laughable to most makes me laugh too. I hold my plans tight against my chest, but college (and patient friends) have taught me to loosen my hold on my cherished plans. Whether it is a week ahead or several months ahead, I meticulously draw up plans that I want to follow. I attempt to isolate every single variable and plan for every contingency; but life is full of people, and people are messy and confusing. They do not fit easily into plans. In fact, to my chagrin, they often break my plans. While I’ve been annoyed, I’ve appreciated that more often.
It’s a gradual process for a chronic over-planner to learn to live in the moment, but it has been a rewarding lesson.