BY HILARY ANDERSON
As we reach the peak of our teenage years life gets more stressful and reality starts to dawn on all of us, the weight of it always reminding us that in a few years we’re going to be adults, alone in the world. Recently, I’ve noticed this stress hiding behind every corner, stalking me, waiting for the perfect chance to pounce and catch me off guard. I’ve managed to prolong this blunt information of reality, but some of my friends haven’t been so lucky, and as their friend I’ve taken on some of their stress and become their trusty and very unqualified therapist.
Although most of the stress my friends experience is a result of homework, parents, boyfriends, or the early realization of reality setting in, I’ve noticed that the majority of it is about the future; Specifically, my friends wonder where they will be in the next couple years. All these problems that my friends kept coming to me with got me thinking, not about my future per say, but more about my past.
When I was younger my idea of what my life would eventually be like was greatly shaped by things I saw like Disney movies, Barbie, and Fancy Nancy books. Looking back at my childhood I realize that my thoughts were greatly influenced by what I wanted my future to look like. I dreamed that someday I would marry Prince Harry and be a dancer, whilst living the life of a world traveler who would venture across the Sahara Desert and voyage across oceans. When you’re young you dream big, and although most of the dreams seem absolutely ridiculous, it’s okay because you’re a child and you won’t understand that till later. But the more I think about it, the more I realize how we are told from day one that we should be planning ahead. We are expected to make plans for our future before we’re even in preschool. Whether you want to be a doctor, a fireman, or even a princess, it is presumed that every child has a plan for the years ahead to come. That idea of having to figure out what you want and who you’re going to be is set in our minds like stone, and frankly, I think it is unrealistic to set such expectations.
Why should we have to figure out the future when we don’t even know what’s happening today? We are so trained to think ahead and as a senior in high school it’s all you can ever think about. What college will I go to? Will I get into a good school? How will this school affect my future job? Do I want kids? Am I going to get married? As you walk down the school hallways, you can hear the questioning screams that are drowning all of us. The questions only seem to drag us further down the deep and dark void of what will be our future, the future that we all know so little about yet find such a need to control.
Our tired feet drag down the hallway, the dark circles that line our eyes give away our lack of sleep, but show little emphasis on the countless hours spent contemplating who we will be. Recently, I had a friend come to me for advice on what to do about a boy she liked. She kept questioning what their relationship would be if they continued talking, if they would move past friendship into something else and then regret it later on. She was worried about the relationship they used to have, before they became something more. The only advice I could think to give her was to forget the past and not worry about the future. All they had was happening right now. If she didn’t let the now happen, there wouldn’t be a future, nor would there be a past to look back on. As cliche as it sounded, it was true. They had right now to live and do what they wanted, it wouldn’t matter what they used to be. The future was out of their hands. It was up to them to make the now happen and live in it, no more living in a future that has yet to happen.
Although a relationship seems like the tiniest of problems to worry about in the scheme of things, my friend’s dilemma made me take a step back and think about my own advice. I had also been pulled into the threatening current of ‘what if’s’ and I had forgotten about ‘what now?’
My life is starting today. When I wake up tomorrow it’ll only be the beginning again. I don’t need to focus on who I will be or what I will become because it won’t matter if I don’t live now. I’m not saying I’m going to go out and do as many reckless things as possible in one night or cross off everything on my bucket list today. What I want is to focus on everything that is here now, everything I have, and everything I am. I would not be any of this without my past, but I will not be anything in the future if I dwell on the past. I won’t be anything today if I focus on the future.
I guess you could call us time travelers, living in the future, dwelling on the past. Everyone wants to get out of the ‘now’ and be somewhere else, someone else. Although the ‘now’ isn’t always what we want it to be, the past sucked at one point too, and the future will have its moments. We don’t need to spend every waking moment rethinking what we could’ve done differently in the past, or planning out the perfect future for ourselves with our perfect college, perfect marriage, perfect house and perfect children. As unqualified as I may be to give out advice and as chaotic and daunting as the future may seem, I have today, and today is all I need.