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Mental Health

Now and Later: How to Be Present in the Moment & Excited for the Future

I seem to have gone through my entire life motivated by the thought of each new period. In middle school, I would dream about a movie-high school experience. In high school, I would count down the minutes until I could have a carefree college life. Now in college, I seem to be falling into the same doom loop. I tell myself that everyday is some step closer to the exciting life I hope to one day have. With a lot of introspection thanks to my dear friend COVID, I’ve come to realize how disheartening this habit of mine really is. 

I imagine that every freshman’s first year of college right now has seemed like an utter disappointment. I went from being a busy, energetic high schooler to being a bored, lonely college student. The hardest part of COVID for me was just having to readjust my previous expectations. For so long, I always romanticized about college parties and meeting new people. I relied so heavily on my grand hopes for college to get me through the slower moments of high school. I focused so intently on a future that—for this year—has failed my predictions. 

Yes, COVID has played a major role in my disappointment with my current social situation as a freshman in college, but I cannot help but wonder whether or not my obsession with the future has added to my frustrations. If I am always more excited about the moments to come then how could I ever be truly happy with the moment right now? Now that I have come to acknowledge the role I play in my own mental dissatisfaction, the question is how do I balance my excitement for the future with my contentment for the current moment? 

I would not classify myself as a planner or as a detail oriented person, but I am clearly someone motivated by the potential of what is to come. I know I want to do well in my college classes because I hope to one day have an intriguing career. There is a difference between motivated and solely focused. I have tried to slow down, appreciate where my past self has brought me today, and be positively motivated to move forward reflectively. 

Sometimes I will call my sister, and she can tell that I am not always one hundred percent focused on our conversations. She will say jokingly, “Lilly, I don’t think you’re present right now.” While she usually intends “present” to mean “showing interest” in a silly project or dream of hers, her joking reminders help to ground me in the moment. Similarly, my yoga instructor always ends class having her students place our hands on the ground and think of all the reasons to be grateful. That little routine reminds me that while there is so much hope for what is to come, the most important moment is the one happening right now. 

Lilly Doninger is a member of the class of 2024 at William & Mary from Louisville, Kentucky. She hopes to major in International Relations. In her free time, she enjoys playing tennis, watching movies, and journaling. Lilly also writes weekly for her personal blog, Ridiculous but Respectable.
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