Living in the Present: A Work in Progress

Something I’ve come to realize about myself as of late is that I often fall into the “grass is always greener” trap. What this basically means is that I sometimes find it difficult to be happy where I am, and therefore convince myself that my life and everything that goes with it would be better elsewhere. I’ve only come to notice this since I moved away from home to attend school in a different state. Although I’m not incredibly far away (a five hour drive typically), I still don’t get to come home very often during the school year. For me personally, this actually turned out to be key in acclimating to my new environment, but it also made me realize some important things about myself and my perspective.

Throughout the school year, I thought of home as a place of relaxation and refuge. It became somewhere where I could find relief from my hectic schedule and basically do whatever I wanted for the week or two that I was there. However, this view was altered a bit when I came home for the Summer (nearly four months) and actually had to…ya know…participate in things like cleaning and going to work. I also started to miss my friends at school a ton, as most people do. Immediately, a sense of overwhelming nostalgia hit me. I felt as though I hadn’t appreciated freshman year enough, and longed to go back to it. I got it in my head that I would simply “survive” the Summer until I was able to go back to school and resume my real life there. At the time, I didn’t realize how ridiculous this mindset was or how it was robbing me of living my happiest and most fulfilling life.

I can see now that it was comforting for me to be able to always, in a sense, have something to look forward to. I would look forward to coming home, and when I was home, I’d look forward to going back to school, and so on. Not that it’s harmful to simply be excited about things, because I think I’ll always be excited to come home and see my family, as well as go back to school to see my friends, but the way that I let it impact my everyday thinking was harmful in the sense that it prevented me from living in the present and fully enjoying every second of every day. I would find myself getting anxious that I hadn’t appreciated being at school/home enough, which would then keep me from enjoying wherever I was at the moment.

Being fully present is something that takes time and practice. Putting down the phone, really listening to the person I’m talking to, and just taking a second to breathe are all ways that help me to be in the moment. When my thoughts shift, it’s up to me to try and redirect them. I think we often feel that time goes by in the blink of an eye because we’re so busy caught up in our own anxieties, and we fail to really take in the things that matter most. We spend so much time thinking of things we “should’ve done” instead of grabbing hold of present opportunities and making the most of them. Change is the only constant, as they say, and there’s no way to live in the moment if you’re worrying about the past or the future. It’s so easy to fall into the habit of waiting for our “real” lives to start, that it often slips by us that this is it. This is my real life and it’s time to start living it fully and presently.

Ellen Arvidson

Originally from Connecticut, Ellen is currently a freshman English major at Saint Michael's College in Burlington, Vermont. In addition to Project Wednesday, she writes for her school's HerCampus chapter and help in editing our literary magazine, The Onion River Review. When Ellen is not writing, she loves running, hiking, skiing, and anything to do with her dog and/or Broadway musicals.

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