Letting Go of the Past, Leaving the Future and Living in the Right Now Through Acceptance
Time. Such a strange concept, you either love it or you hate it. The time passes by too slowly when you’re waiting by the door for class to get out so you can go home and binge watch The Office or go hangout with your friends. Who knew a minute could feel like eternity? Or when you’re with the one person you wish you never had to part and call it a night. Didn’t they just pick you up ten minutes ago to go get breakfast, and how is it already almost past curfew? How is it already Sunday, you ask yourself as the dreadful realization sinks in that you have school tomorrow. Another mindless day full of mundane routine and a spike in stress levels. How can I turn back the clock? How can I fast forward?
We experience these moments all too often. But how many of us actually take a moment to really experience the moment and notice our surroundings? When was the last time you did something nice for yourself? Sometimes life feels like it’s ticking down the clock so fast it can make the present feel like a continuous future. And we are encouraged to live by this state of mind. Think of tomorrow, think back to yesterday, forget yesterday, live in the future, where does the now and why do we continue to act like it doesn’t exist? Our society is based on us wanting the next thing, waiting for the right moment, wishing things would go back to the way they used to be rather than living in the now or focusing on what we already have. And this is the perfect recipe for dissatisfaction and unhappiness.
We are not encouraged to live in the moment. Think back to your early years of childhood and you’ll find that we’ve always been trained to live elsewhere: the future. Think about school, pass your tests, study for the exam that will dictate your entire future and how well you will adapt to the working environment past your years of preliminary education. It doesn’t stop there. So what, you graduate, move onto university possibly, pass more tests, study for more exams, stress over more dense decisions as the weight of responsibility increasingly becomes heavier on your shoulders. More people asking you questions of what you plan on doing or becoming, what path do you wish to pursue, and are you thinking carefully enough on how this major will benefit you in the long run? The question of who do you want to be when you grow up eventually turns into teen angst of asking yourself who you even are and what you really want, comparing GPAs, comparing SAT scores and eventually asking yourself, how did I get stuck paying off all this debt from student loans? Is this what I really want? Did I make a mistake in choosing this career path, in getting married too early, have I done enough to “discover myself?” What’s the rush? We view education through the lens of how it will benefit us in the long term or weigh it on a numerical scale rather than fully allowing ourselves to divulge into educating ourselves in the ways of which we learn about the wonders of humanity. We are mysterious beings, most of all of us being fully capable of experiencing passion, creativity, feelings, profound emotions, hunger for knowledge and a drive to achieve something that is by far greater than ourselves. And yet we let the culture of fast forward to the fairytale ending where I get my paycheck get in the way of the full human experience. We aren’t living, we’re simply just doing. Are we focusing on the wrong things? And have we lost some part of us that emphasize the value on human connection? Is it really digital relationships that interfere with intimacy or is it that we allow our busy schedules dictate how we live our lives to the fullest?
News flash though, the future isn’t real. It never was. Nothing in life is ever a given. The now is all we know and not only where we must live, but where there is no other option other than to experience it without driving ourselves to the brink of insanity. We could wonder all the infinite possibilities of the millions of different versions of ourselves that exist within a lifetime that hasn’t even been experienced yet, but there is only one version of you, and that’s the person who is looking at this screen.
I have just now come to the realization as of lately how wrong my aspirations have been. How much I have limited myself by simply neglecting the moment and living for the future or being hung up on the past. What could I have done better? What if I won’t be good enough? I always wanted more, but what I failed to see is that everything I could ever possibly need or want is right in front of me. Blinded by the fear of settling, I failed to sit still and soak in the world around me. My existence is not what I chase after, it’s what I am, who I am this very second.
I kept telling myself I’d be happy once I got good grades. Eventually, that turned into I’d be happy once I got into college. No, I’d be happy once I got into the right college. Eventually that would turn into I’d be happy when I got a job, and then once I made more money, once I’m rich, once I find the right person, once I get married, once I have children, once my children become the children I want them to be, once I leave home, once I move into my own place, once I get a nicer place, once I’m finally able to be good at something, once I become the best at something, once people like me, once more people like me, once everyone likes me, once people dream of becoming me, once I look good, once I get smoother skin or a fit body, once I get more compliments on my appearance, once I learn more, once I become self-actualized, once I become one with the universe, once I become the universe. It never stopped and it never stops only until you stop thinking in the future or living in the past. There comes a time when one realizes if they wish to truly become something big, their success does not lie within the accepting grins of others when they finally see and appreciate what you’ve accomplished. Flaws don’t go away, it’s how we perceive them then that they stop being “flaws”. It was never a matter of continuous progress or achievement, rather, a matter of acceptance.
Maybe satisfaction, prosperity, success, happiness, everything you’ve ever desired, is not about us or you. Maybe it’s not something that even happens or arrives. Maybe it’s not about what you “earned” or “deserve” because of your worth. Maybe it’s not about what we can get. What if everything we ever wished for in life was about what we already had to begin with? What if it was about what we were able to give? You finally achieve something and then that’s it, what’s the next move? Why does there even have to be a next move? Is there really a certain way to be successful or happy? Emily Dickinson once said, “Forever -- is composed of Nows --,” what if I told you that you didn’t need to keep searching because chances are it’s right in front of you? We’ve spent our entire existence thus far trying to become certain of things. What would happen if we began to embrace life as it is and accept that we are only human? We were always so uncertain.