By Jade Jacobs
From the moment a child is able to utter a coherent sentence, the question comes up. “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Wide eyed and mind reeling, we blurt the first thing that comes to mind. As we grow older, the questions never leave us. “What are you doing this weekend?” “Where do you see yourself in 5 to 10 years?” “What will your wedding be like?” These questions all share a common theme: they plan for a future that we aren’t guaranteed to have. By the time we are eighteen, we may be less bobble-headed and glassy-eyed than that three-year-old version of ourselves, but many of us are still far from being able to answer the question that has plagued us. Even now, seventeen years after first being asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” I could have a different answer every day.
As a society, it has been so deeply ingrained in our psyche to set goals and make plans that we’ve forgotten what it means to live in the moment. We’ve forgotten what it means to appreciate those we surround ourselves with not for what they do for us, but simply because they’re here. We’ve forgotten what it means to wake up early not to get that workout in or clock in the extra hours, but to simply take in the sunrise. We’ve become so focused on who we’re going to be, that we’ve forgotten who we are.
I’ve come to realize that people bounce between two modes. We’re either planning, or we’re waiting for plans to happen. If someone isn’t planning a trip, then they’re counting down the days until they leave. If we aren’t planning what classes we’ll take, then we’re waiting for them to start (or waiting for them to end). This loop of monotony never ceases. We give ourselves the illusion of change by looking forward to a future that seems different from today, when all we do is fall into the same patterns over and over.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve been taught that I need to think three moves ahead of the next action I’ll be taking. There will always be the next step that needs a path to follow or the next set of doors where only one can be opened. I’ve spent most of my years thinking about where each path would lead, or what is on the other side of each door, that I forget to see what trees line the paths or what colors the doors are painted. Time that I can’t get back was spent worrying about where I need to be tomorrow and not enough of it was used to enjoy where I am right now.
However, there are moments that make me think by pulling me out of this uncertain future and immersing me in the present. My favorites of these moments are cold sand sifting through my toes, the Milky Way stretched out across the sky, a million lights mirrored on the waves, and the moon, orange as if aflame, climbing high or laying to rest on the horizon. We need to take in these small moments and realize that they are much bigger than they seem. It’s the times we take for granted that we so dearly wish to return to. Don’t let today be just another grain of sand in the hour glass. To reach your dreams tomorrow, you first have to let yourself dream them up today.