Letting Go of the Future: It's Okay & It's Necessary

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been the type of person whose mind is fixed perpetually on the future. As a little girl I couldn’t wait for my teenage years, thinking my life would look something like those of the High School Musical characters and having no idea of the realities of growing up (a.k.a. reams of schoolwork and a never-ending emotional rollercoaster.) Once I got to high school, I hated the monotony of each day of classes and wished that the months and years would pass quickly, eagerly anticipating graduation and a life at college that was sure to be vastly improved.

This past August I arrived at Pitt and found within a matter of weeks that my idyllic visions of college were, quite simply, false. At the end of the day it was still school, and I was still an introvert who struggled to break from my shell and connect with new people. I felt hopeless, and as a defense mechanism I began once again to imagine my “better” future. I would have a career I loved and an adoring family of my own. We would live in a gorgeous house pulled straight from my Pinterest board, and I would cook and eat food vastly improved from the suspicious-at-best offerings of Market Central. Everything was going to be so good so soon. I just had to survive the next four years.

However, I discovered the issues with this mindset almost as quickly as I had discovered that college wasn’t the perfect fantasy-land I had imagined it to be. I realized that for my entire life I had been wasting the time in front of me in favor of the time to come. I had neglected to notice the many blessings of the present, and that the present was my life: there was no future at all that was guaranteed. If I kept longing to already be in the next phase, I wasted the opportunities of the moment, and I placed all of my hope in a future whose very existence was uncertain.

I don’t say this to be morbid, or to imply that fear should force you to live in the now. What I do want to emphasize, and what I’m still struggling to accept, is that no one knows what the future holds. Someday, maybe I will love my job and maybe I will have a husband and children. Maybe our home will be Pinterest-worthy, or maybe we’ll have just enough money for essentials. Maybe I’ll live on my own. Whatever ends up happening, I can be sure by now that it won’t look or feel anything like what I expect. In the meantime, there’s so much to enjoy about college life. I live in a beautiful and vast city, there are thousands of people I’ve yet to meet and each day brings new knowledge that I am privileged to be able to attain. What reason have I to want to fast forward?

The future is a story I’ll never get to read. This fact is difficult to confront, but I’m inching toward the understanding that it doesn’t have to be anxiety-inducing. On the contrary, it can encourage me to look on today as pretty spectacular and I can begin to love my life for what it is, not what it could be. If you’re anything like me, my hope is that you can do the same.

 

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