Don’t freak out. It’s me. Well, a version of you. To put it simply, I’m you five years from now. I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to stop and smell the roses, and I realized if there’s anyone who needs to hear this, it’s you.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned in the past five years, it’s that it’s better to slow down. I know it seems so hard. There are midterms, clubs, organizations and classes you need to take to complete your major requirements. There are tests worth half of your entire grade. You want to make your parents proud.
But here is the harsh truth: It doesn’t stop. There will always be responsibilities calling us. The only difference is that as we grow up, these responsibilities change and often accumulate. So stop for one second.
Do you remember that dark blue in the sunsets when it’s autumn? You’ve always thought of sunsets as a bit cheesy, but you love the fall. When you’re getting some dinner, and you look at the sun slowly sinking below the horizon, the sky is a sea of melting colors. Above you is a magnificent, rich dark blue that can’t be replicated even if you take a picture of it. It fades to light blue, then white, then yellow, then orange and then a brilliant, brilliant red. Isn’t it beautiful? You’ve imagined how that pattern would look on dresses. That dark blue has become your favorite color.
Maybe you really will fail that midterm tomorrow. But that’s OK because you’re going to let yourself wallow and soak in your feelings. Then you’re going to spring back and ace the next one. Don’t get discouraged. Remember, I know what it’s like to study and study just to only barely pass the test. It’s disheartening. But think about how much more you understand now — and how you might’ve gotten a D or an F if you didn’t study at all. These grades aren’t just letters or numbers. They do have consequences, whether we like it or not. But the great thing about setbacks is that they’re universal. You are truly not alone. So wallow a bit; dust yourself off; and move forward. There’s a reason we can’t live in the past.
Everyone is facing challenges of their own, personal or academic. But that doesn’t mean yours hurt any less. A broken leg won’t make a broken arm any less painful. So allow yourself to feel dejected about your bad grade. The important thing is to keep moving forward, even when you feel trapped.
This is life. Sometimes you make your own luck, and sometimes luck makes you. The things that actually make you happy? It’s going to be that new book you want to read. The greasy, deep-fried goodies from the nearest fast-food restaurant. The warm feeling when you are cocooned in your blanket, invincible to the troubles of the world. Take some joy in that right now.
If there’s one thing I want you to remember, it’s that struggles do define us. But that’s not the only thing that does. The truth is, everything, from our choices to our favorite drink, to the good stuff and the bad and everything in between, defines us. We are a collection of hobbies, likes and dislikes, passions and ambition, memories and emotions, love and hatred. The problem isn’t that you’re dwelling on the past. You’re not actually living in the past. You’re living in the future. You’re so concerned about your future that you’ve taken up residence there. Of course, planning is important, but too much of a good thing can be bad. Too much medicine turns it into poison. As it is with a lot of other concepts, the important thing is balance.
So good luck. I set you free. I could regale you with everything that happens five years from now, but right now? You need a moment to live in the present.