I’m terrified I’ll get the things I want, and it’ll turn out I didn’t want them. Or that I was ascribing all kinds of magical properties to them that don’t exist. That they won’t act as a salve against the uncertainty of life.
And then where does that leave me? Always hungry for more. Never content with the present. I achieve something, have a brief moment of satisfaction, and then immediately move on to the next goal.
Isn’t that kind of what life is, though? If you aren’t swimming forward, you die. You have to place a carrot in front of your nose to keep yourself from falling into deep existential despair. There needs to be a reason to get out of bed in the morning, even if it’s just excitement over breakfast.
I think people lean too heavily into this, however, myself included. The ability to revel in achievement, and to truly enjoy moments for what they are rather than what they might mean in regards to the future or the past is an elusive skill. It’s one I’m trying to hone with varied success.
But doesn’t the anticipation of something often give you more joy than the occasion itself? And isn’t it nice to remember that time you and your friends laughed to the point of tears?
Looking forward and looking back have their place. Looking back can reveal patterns that perhaps you’d like to break free from, and now that you recognize the cycle, you’ve taken that first step towards breaking it. Looking forward can keep you motivated. Mundane everyday tasks can feel a lot less frustrating when they are in service to a goal, to future satisfaction.
It becomes unhealthy when you start obsessing over the past, over things you cannot change, wallowing in a sea of regret. Or when you completely divorce yourself from reality and live only in a future that never seems to materialize. You put off eating healthily, or going back to school, or learning a new skill, because you think your future self will be more capable of change.
There is something special about now. It is the only time that anything actually happens. You can plan and obsess all you want, but when it comes down to it, change happens now. You live your life now. You experience things now. And if you’re completely incapable of slowing down enough to see things in crystal clear focus, your whole life will be lived in a blur.
I want to enjoy every bite of food I eat, every embrace I give and receive. I want to luxuriate in every word I spin out onto the page. I’m tired of trying to catch up to a better now. To a better me.