We were glad 2011 was over. We were glad 2012 was over. We are glad 2013 will be over.
We were glad high school was over, AP classes were over, and college applications were over. We were glad college was over, the last papers were over, and the last exam was over.
We couldn’t wait to move out of our parents’ house. We couldn’t wait to move out of dorms. We can’t wait to move to a better apartment. We can’t wait to buy a house.
We can’t wait until Friday. We can’t wait until our next vacation. We can’t wait until we have a better job. We can’t wait until we retire.
We can’t even wait for lunch. Or the newest iPhone. Or the bus. Or the newest episode of a TV show.
Life is a chore to many of us. We have this mentality that when ____ is over, we’ll finally be able to ____. And that “there” is better than “here.”
Do you think this way? Did you finally get to enjoy life when you got “there”?
This was me in high school when I pulled all-nighters to keep a higher-than-perfect GPA, studied for several perfect standardized test scores, and never had lower than an A- on anything–only to feel unfulfilled when I graduated and got “there.” My parents and teachers taught me how to achieve. No one taught me how to live.
With this kind of thinking, we shovel and shovel and dig and dig–only to get to the next task. And we shovel and dig again.
It’s the same for small things too:
“I can’t write a letter to my former teacher until I’m successful and have something proud to talk about.”
“I can’t invite friends over for dinner until I have a clean place. Or a bigger place. Or I know how to cook better.”
“I can’t date someone until he or she shares this exact hobby and this belief and doesn’t wear that kind of clothes and knows how to spell and lives near me.”
“I can’t use this expensive candle until we have a fancier party.”
“I can’t make a film until I have a nicer camera and better software.”
“I can’t start this painting or this screenplay until I have a perfectly planned out idea.”
“I can’t visit that cool place in my own city until this semester is over.”
“I can’t go to an alumni event until I have a better job and will wear a more impressive nametag.”
“I can’t propose this initiative at work until I have a higher title.”
“I can’t see friends and family until this project is over.”
“I can’t enjoy the beach until I lose this many pounds.”
“I can’t step off the sidelines to dance until I know how to and I like what I see in the mirror.”
I can’t, I can’t, I can’t.
That’s considered profanity when I set expectations for young people.
If we CAN’T:
We keep shoveling and digging. And waiting. And before we know it, life is over. And we didn’t get to enjoy childhood or college or dating while single or our partner. Or a good job or a great city or travel or art or social mileage in our apartment. Or our father or our grandmother or our kids or our family or our friends. Or our own two feet or our voice or our body or sitting in a bookstore or sipping a smoothie or sleeping outside. Or the world and all its amusements and beauties and living things.
There are no second chances in life. And it certainly shouldn’t feel like a chore.
If it’s a tough year every year, then shoot, we’re living life wrong. We’re probably the ones to say it’s a tough week right now too, right? And last week too?
Are we happy?
I wasn’t happy until I got to college, failed two courses, and was forced to let go. It was then that I learned to live. I balanced work and grades with people and simple pleasures. I didn’t have to worry about staying perfect because my GPA was busted already. I worked hard, played harder, relaxed hardest. And it all turned out fine.
I wish I knew that my whole life. Trust me: life is better on this side of the river. In fact, play and relaxation inform my work, give me creative ideas, and help me network. It takes a bit of a jump to trust that everything will be okay though.
Of course sometimes stuff happens and we should feel accepted when we are depressed for a while or have trouble gathering the energy to enjoy life. Or we should feel no guilt when work really is a priority over people for a few weeks.
But in this culture and in the grand scheme of things, we really need to remind ourselves that “What’s next?” is the curse of happiness here and now.
Whether for grades and work or for possessions and lifestyles, when we want more and more for later, we enjoy life less and less right now.
This doesn’t mean we should rage on a Tuesday night before an exam, skip work to skydive, try to be professional with ragged jeans, hold onto a 7-year-old laptop for media work, or let social invitations dictate our schedules and pinball us around.
Let’s balance our goals, visions of the future, dreams, and desires with our appreciation and enjoyment of what’s here already.
Let’s set resolutions out of self-love and commitment to improve, not out of self-pity and lack of gratitude.
Let’s know what we need and what we want.
Let’s balance Type A with Type B. Sometimes work, grades, and perfection can wait. Life can’t. Procrastinating life is the most regrettable of all.
Let’s make 2014 a good one, an enjoyable one, a happy one.
Let’s fill it with mindfulness, gratitude, lots of love, and lots of laughter.
Let’s not have to wait until 2015.
Happy New Year!! =)
What’s the Only Rule for Setting New Year’s Resolutions?