Living in the future

In today’s fast-paced, technological society, it’s easy to get caught up in large-scale, big-picture items. As teenagers, we are constantly pressured to focus on our futures; from colleges to careers, we’re expected to have our entire lives planned out to a tee. As an overthinker, stressing about my future is an everyday event for me. While planning ahead can be beneficial, I’ve had a recent realization: living for the future causes us to miss the present.  

My recent epiphany was a result of finally partaking in self-care. After taking an entire day to pamper and prioritize myself, I went out for a two mile walk and listened to a podcast, “The Self Love Fix.” During this walk, I felt a sense of liberation I haven’t felt in years. I was breathing in the fresh air, listening to words of guidance, feeling the evening breeze on my skin and the soles of my shoes on my feet — I was present. I was living in the moment. There wasn’t a single thought in my mind that pertained to stressors or anything other than what I had felt, seen, heard or smelled in that moment. The serenity I experienced enabled me to have a clear mind, breathe easy and enjoy life as it was happening to me, rather than going through the motions. 

This 30 minute walk was beyond eye-opening — it was a wake up call. It was a reminder that there is so much more to life than class rank, career paths and having everything pre-planned. Although it was refreshing, it was simultaneously alarming. This walk and the feelings it elicited made me realize how little I stopped to enjoy the simple things in life, and how long it had been since I was last present

Due to the demands of academics, extracurriculars, social obligations and personal struggles, I no longer take the time to absorb life as it comes — it’s merely meeting deadlines and hoping for the highest grades. The more I think back on my first three years of high school and eighth grade, the more I realize how little I’ve lived in the moment. I’ve spent the bulk of the past few years stressing over my future: what classes I’m taking, colleges I want to apply to, what career I want to pursue, and ultimately, what I want to do with my whole life. 

While this has helped me to an extent, it has caused me to miss out on the moments as they ensue. I’ve been living so deep in the future that I’ve missed out on the present. A majority of my high school memories feel like a blur — because at the time, I was likely too busy worrying over an event that was yet to come. 

Now that I’ve acknowledged how an overly-forward track mind has negatively influenced my ability to live in the present, one question remains: how does one live in the present? While I am by no means an expert, the things that have helped me change my perspective include  to-do lists, walking, exercising and reading. 

Through creating a list of my tasks, I’ve been able to better organize items I need to complete, which has helped reduce feeling overwhelmed and stressed. Walking, exercising and reading are all activities that I have to make time for, and in doing so, I limit the amount of time I spend looking at colleges or other items that will cause me to overthink. Furthermore, these activities allow me to focus on what is taking place in the present, preventing me from stressing about future events.

Realize deeply that the present moment is all you ever have.”

— Eckhart Tolle

Despite recent progress, I still find myself getting caught up in events that are yet to come. Learning to live in the present is a journey I am still on, and every day will pose different levels of progress and change. With summer approaching, now is a great time for self-reflection, self-care and a general check in with ourselves. We should spend our time off enjoying our teenage years and making memories, rather than stressing over the future. Things will happen the way they should, and missing out on the present won’t contribute to long-term successes. While every day presents its new challenges, every day is still an opportunity to live life to the fullest.