So much time is spent preparing for some theoretical tomorrow. We spend our formative years in school preparing for college. We spend our college years preparing for the workplace. We spend our working years preparing for retirement. We spend our single days preparing for that perfect someone. We spend our coupled years preparing for children. We raise our children in preparation for them to move out, and when they do, we await what their lives hold.
I have spent a quarter of a century preparing for things that may never come. I never graduated college, and the things I learned there prepared me for very little. I suppose looking ahead is better than looking behind all the time, but the same fatal error is made in either case. The present is the only thing that will ever belong to you. Tomorrow is a myth, and what has come before cannot be rewritten.
There are benefits to looking back and learning from the past. It is wise to look forward and plan your next meal, or have an idea of how your bills are getting paid next month. However, spending your life fixated on an imaginary point in time is ludicrous. The future is fluid, and quite frankly, if you don’t take care of the here and now, there won’t be a future for you. You’ll waste every living second you have striving for some invisible finish line.
If you’re waking up every day fixated on reaching some point of perfection, some day where you can sit back in utter bliss and be content in where you are, you’ll never reach it. It will elude you forever; you can chase shadows all day, but you’ll never hold one in your hand.
It’s not about the destination that matters, it’s the journey and the paths you take to get there. People recite various versions of that old proverb as if were a mantra sometimes, but very few people really stop to think about the truth of it. The destination is pretty obvious; there’s only one, and we all get there someday. We are on a one-way ride to the grave. The destination isn’t necessarily the prize (but that brings religion into things, and I’d rather not discuss that right now; I only have so much time today.) The journey you take is important. The scars you got from skinning your knees as a kid, those are important. That moment of bliss you have when you get that first wiff of your morning coffee on a brisk day, that’s important. The seemingly mundane thoughts and interactions you have on your way to work, while you’re at lunch, or when you’re out and about, every one of those things matters.
Every moment is crucial, because you are never exactly the same person from one thought to the next, because every firing synapse changes you, refines you, just a little. The journey is worth experiencing in full detail. Watching the world and your understanding of it evolve over time is a fulfilling experience. Or at least it can be.
It is important to take time to live in the now. You will never be here again. Sure, you might be sitting in that chair, at this time of day, wearing that shirt a thousand more times, but you, as you are, will never be exactly right here ever again. So why not take a look around. Maybe it’s not a memorable moment. Maybe it’s one you’d rather forget. It doesn’t matter. The full spectrum should be experienced. How will you ever be able to say that you lived a full life if you refused to experience even one day in its fullness, whatever that might have been?
Be afraid, and learn to be brave. Be happy, and learn to be rational at the same time. Be sad, and learn to appreciate every breath that carries you through it. Be bored, and learn to not be so boring. Be ordinary, and learn to find the glory in the everyday things.
Be, and learn to be more.