For as long as I can remember, life was about anticipating what’s next. It’s the natural mind set for a student, as each new year follows a simultaneously unique yet expected pattern with school, family, and friends. Even in college, with each year offering new challenges, I was always able to say to some extent “I know what comes next.” Upon graduation, it got murky, but I quickly found my way into the career I’m currently working in. It’s the normal human process: discussing what to eat for dinner while eating lunch, deciding who should host Christmas before Thanksgiving is over, and so on. We anticipate, which sometimes makes it hard to participate.
Before I got hired on as a full time teacher, I was already thinking about what comes next. Where am I moving? What will I do? How long will I stay where I am now? And for about a year and a half (which was through June of this year) I was so consumed with predicting and planning an unpredictable future, I was investing very little time in my current reality. I wasn’t a total hermit: I did a little with my church, a little with my school, annnnnd that’s about it. It was a pretty lonely season because I was so zoned in, so blinded by a future that, as of now, is just a dream. Dreams are good, but they shouldn’t blind out the present. It’s dangerous.
No matter what you think your future holds, your present is the reality that you have the most control over. There is no point in being jealous of a future you who does not exist yet. Does that make sense? Let me put it this way:
In a few short years, I see myself living abroad, teaching in some capacity. This has not been my lifelong dream, but it has been my goal for a few years. Once I moved back in with my parents and began teaching locally, I grew jealous of my future. If I was there, I’d be happier. If I had that life, I’d be happier. As ridiculous as this sounds, I think we can all relate.
I spent so much time thinking about how much happier I would be once I move away to a place I’d never been that I limited my opportunity for happiness in the place I am right now. Recently I had the revelation: if that dream doesn’t happen, if I never move away, I don’t want my current season to be wasted. I realized that I was wasting time complaining when I could be spending time investing. So I chose to do just that: identify what I like to do, and find a way to do it right here, right now.
My point is this: if you’re unhappy, find something to do that brings you happiness. It is such a lie that we can’t be happy until our goals are achieved and our prizes are won. It’s okay for us to find joy in any circumstances we find ourselves in. Maybe this sounds stupid to you and it doesn’t make sense, but this is something I’ve really struggled with. I’ve decided to stop being jealous of a future I haven’t ensured, and start being active in my present. And I will say, I’ve never been happier.