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“So, now what?” 

I have asked myself this question an embarrassing number of times since I graduated high school nearly three years ago now. The day after high school graduation, I felt pure bliss knowing that the four whirlwind years of insecurity and confusion were finally over. I was ecstatic to get out of my hometown; to finally explore the “real world”. My mind was filled with images of a supposed future that looked so beautiful to me. I couldn’t go a few seconds without daydreaming about what life as a full-fledged adult was going to look like. 

Well, little did I know that a tornado was awaiting me soon after that time in my life. No, seriously. Within the first month of my first year at university, a tornado hit the city I was living in. Natural disasters aside, university was altogether horrendously difficult to adjust to. The battles with myself I thought I had left back home still managed to follow me full force ahead. I was drifting apart with those I had vowed to keep close to, and everything was changing far too quickly. I tried to cope with these rapid changes by desperately clinging on to happy memories from the past. That worked at first, but after a while it only made me feel even worse about the situation in front of me. 

Even now, three years into university and a whole transfer experience later, I still sometimes struggle with this. I’m either hyperfocusing on my future -- whether it be my career, my living situation, my potential friends or relationship partners -- or I’m hyper-fixating on the past -- happy memories that are now so painful to look at now because of how much things have changed since then. I’m constantly putting myself into a state of total anxiety and I don’t think I’m even trying to do it on purpose. Living in the absolute present is hard. Planning for the future made me feel like I had freedom and control, even if at the end of the day, I was really just trapping myself in a box. I wasn’t even giving present me (the real me) a single millimeter of wiggle room for possible decisions. Thinking of the past made me feel safe, even if I was really just holding onto an invisible thread that was leading me nowhere. 

I finally realized how detrimental my habits were at the end of 2020. Some things happened in my personal life and in my community that forced me to look at and focus on nothing but whatever was in front of me. I realized that I owed myself a feeling of true bliss, and that came from just doing what I, present me, loved. All I needed was to focus on each passing second. I stopped stressing out about my future and frantically going through possibilities and scenarios that I must face. I stopped caring about whatever “past me” would have done or thought. I simply just decided that I was going to focus on what I loved with no strings attached. I am adamant that whatever opportunity comes to me as a result of focusing on what I enjoy must be the right fit. 

Of course, I don’t have the recipe for permanent and eternal bliss. I’m not even sure if that’s a possibility in a world like ours. But, if I can create these small pockets of bliss just by shifting this mindset of mine, then I shall. For 2021, I challenge you to do the same. Surrender to the present, direct your focus on what you truly love, and just see what will happen. 

Jasmine Yan

Waterloo '22

Jasmine is a fourth-year student psychology student at the University of Waterloo. She loves all things figure skating, music, and is unashamedly addicted to TikTok and Pinterest.
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