We are the multitasking generation. We pride ourselves on being 20 places at once, operating eight different electronic devices, all while chewing gum and writing a term paper at the same time. Hell, if reality wasn’t enough, we now have avatars and second lives to keep our hands full and our minds wired. Funny how it can feel so natural to be everywhere, doing everything, yet it’s sometimes so hard to really be where you are. Sure, it’s a horrendous cliché, but whatever happened to being in the moment? Is ‘being in the moment’ even possible when our moments are so action-packed?
Then there’s that constant push to take on what’s next. I think I’ve been on that track since middle school. Taking honors classes so I could take APs in high school, clawing for A’s and hoarding extracurriculars in high school so I could squeak my way into a top university. And college? For the most part, I feel like I’ve avoided those fast-track urges. Until now. Senior year at Wash. U. feels a little like high school all over again, except this time I’m fighting back.
High school, for me, was all about getting out. But I don’t feel that way about college. These years have been important to me; I’ve learned so much about myself—what I care about, who I love, what interests me, what I want. These years have been packed with self-discovery and important lessons. Funny how all of that threatens to fly out the window with a pile of applications on my desk. I feel the what-next panic taking over, creeping up on me horror-movie style. It’s like I go into autopilot, already set to strive for the top. Only this time, I’m not so sure what the ‘top’ really is. Instead, I’m asking myself, ‘What do I really want?’
Not an easy question when I’m supposed to plan my future around the answer. I can’t even order a sandwich; how can I possibly be expected to know what I want out of life? Or even out of next year? I know I want to go to grad school, but for what? Where? Do I want to go somewhere sunny? East? West? I always thought I’d get a Ph.D., but now I don’t even know what I’d use it for. All of these questions leave me feeling lost. And that’s when I decided to stop trying so hard.
Sure, it’s blasphemy, I know. But I’ve given up on having all the answers (frankly, I’ve given up on even having a large fraction of the answers). Instead I’ve decided to just let it be. From here on out I’m living in the moment. In other words, I’m getting in touch with my inner surfer dude/Zen master. There’s just so much to savor in the here and now that I refuse to break my back tackling my entire future. I want to give myself a chance to really appreciate my last semester of college. And hopefully, amidst all of that appreciation, I’ll learn a little more about what I want next. If life is really about the journey, I’m buying an open ticket.