“Life moves pretty fast. You don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”- Ferris Bueller
The trouble with living in the future is that too often I do miss it. True, I have wonderful times in my life that I appreciate and look back fondly on moments that I’ve shared with loved ones. Oftentimes, however, my experiences are speckled with the trepidation I feel about what is to happen next. Living in the moment becomes exponentially more difficult when one is always wondering what comes after. The future looms over my head like Winnie the Pooh’s little black rain cloud hovers over the honey tree. Try as I might, I struggle to take life one step at a time, to be in the present, to look inward without looking forward. For better or for worse, I am five steps ahead in my mind.
There are times when my foresight comes in handy, of course. I find it nearly impossible to procrastinate, a statement that would make most University students cringe. My anomalous study habits likely stem from the fact that as I’m toiling away on project number 1, I’m thinking about assignment number 3, due weeks later. This leads me to set deadlines for myself that precede the real due date. Unfortunately, the self-deadline process tends to cause me nearly as much stress as the final due date as it approaches. What can I say? I’m notorious for not only my meticulous scholarship but for my self-imposed stress.
Planning ahead certainly has its upside, and I am always the go-to girl when a friend is looking for a band-aid, sunscreen or an emergency granola bar. Thinking about the possible outcomes of an outing is a full time job that tends to result in a sore shoulder from an overloaded purse. I’m Mary Poppins with an H&M carpet bag.
With its redeeming features, my future-living doesn’t sound so bad. I do love looking forward to something fun, and the feeling of excited anticipation is a great one. Would Christmas morning have been as fun as a child if I hadn’t had so many butterflies in my tummy the night before that I couldn’t sleep? (Maybe, for my parents- lack of sleep tends to coincide with Christmas day tears.)
As I mentioned, there are drawbacks to my tendencies to look forward rather than inward. Nowhere has this been more true than in my wait to enter a more intensive program for treatment. It becomes cripplingly difficult to change potentially dangerous behaviour when you know more intensive treatment is pending. Its almost as if you’re working toward a “last hoorah” before a crackdown. It is important to consider that every step in the right direction I make now will make the program easier for me, but its not always easy to listen to that intelligent voice and do the right thing. Especially when you’re simultaneously dreading and looking forward to finally pursuing the road to full recovery.
The stresses associated with living in the future also distract me from the joy of the present. This is not always the case, and if I think about it I can push away the worries and have a great time. True, I’m usually secretly thinking “What’s next?”. Then again, I can usually carry on a conversation and override the future-thoughts, pushing through on my pursuit of living-in-the-moment. It’s not that I don’t enjoy a great talk or a special event. I do, and I’m not always distracted by the shiny object that is the future. I’m not a future-magpie.
As much as I’d love to throw caution to the wind and have a raucously good time in the moment without pondering possible implications, I’ll likely never be that girl. I am cautious, I am planning, and I am forward-thinking. I’d like to adopt parts of the spontaneous lifestyle without losing the more useful aspects of considering the future. Perhaps it is key to not attempt a total overhaul, and focus instead on making small changes that allow me to appreciate the smaller pleasures of living in the moment. Small changes in the right direction tend to be key in most processes. What am I waiting for?