It is the beginning of the end of an era: the start of my last college semester. I feel like I am watching the sun rise on this last segment of the best years of my life. I am clinging on to the remaining hours of daylight and spiting the inevitable sunset. Lately, if I am not worried about the future, I am reminiscing on the past few years. My mind has spent so much time hopping between those two mentalities; I am either dwelling on the past just wishing to fly back in time to those simpler, carefree moments, or my mind is contaminated with anxiety about what comes next.
Any time something comes to an end, it is more than difficult to not reminisce on the past. My college experience delivered so much positivity: happiness, higher levels of confidence, new supportive friendships, my soulmate, even a better mental state. With my approaching graduation, I have been questioning how it happened to creep up so fast on me. It feels like just yesterday I was a frightened freshman just trying to find my way around campus, figuring out how to be independent. Now here I am, a more confident and joyous person in my senior year, and I can’t help but yearn for the past couple of years full of wonderful moments that got me to where I am. I miss late nights crowded together in the lounge of a dorm building playing games with my friends, our laughter and shouting echoing down the hallways. I miss random Dunkin’ trips with my friends and the accompanying car rides through town, listening to playlists we made for each other. I miss meeting up for a coffee or meal on campus with a friend and falling into a deep conversation for hours. I miss just walking down the hallway and knocking on a friend’s door to say hi, or lure them away from their studies to hang out.
Especially while we are grappling with the pandemic, this steadfast sense of longing has been incredibly heightened. It made me reflect on and crave even the simpler stuff: when I could sit alone with my laptop and a cheese Danish at a bustling and overflowing Starbucks while I crammed in my studying before an exam, when I could go out to eat at Texas Roadhouse with my girlfriend on the weekends, when I was just in the same town as my friends, and even when I could just walk across our campus to an in-person class. There are so many little snapshots like that clogging my mind that are so hard to clear.
When the yearning for the past is not weighing my chest down, I found myself tensing up about my post-graduation life. For the past four years, I was stressed about what will come when I am done with college, and now, in my last semester, the feeling intensifies with each day. More and more I see people celebrating their successes with internships and job offers; instead of feeling cheerful for them, I almost feel resentful. I get anxious about not having a solid plan for myself just yet. Both of these places – lingering on all the lovely memories I have made and stressing about my future – have not exactly been beneficial for my mental well-being.
Conversely, living in the present provides many positives. Because I always feel so nostalgic about the past, even when I reflect on more difficult times, somehow I can always find an aspect of it that I still wish to return to, I want to try to live more in the moment, knowing one day I will also miss where I am currently. Cherishing the current place and time I am in will allow me to later look back on it and acknowledge that I appreciated the moment to the fullest. Furthermore, because I tend to be so anxious about the future, living more in the present will help me not be so captivated and controlled by that stress. Moreover, living in the moment while acknowledging my stress for my future plans will help me take the steps I need to take in order to shape my future how I wish.
While I have not entirely mastered these mindsets just yet, I have been trying to remind myself of two notions: (1) We can appreciate the past while not dwelling on it too heavily and wishing to return to it, and (2) We can be nervous about what our futures hold while not letting that anxiety consume us.