The fruits of our labor: a tangible goal we all glare at with dreamy eyes and dripping mouths. We spend every minute of our lives chasing after this low-hanging reward, that one day we can finally relax knowing we’ve bitten into the ripe taste of victory. But the unbroken gaze we cast towards the end serves only as a distraction from the labor we toil with to get there, and before you know it, all of the hard work you’ve poured into growing these fruits is now in vain and what you spent so much time looking forward to is lost.
We can’t blame ourselves for this common mistake, as we do need something to motivate us through tribulations; something to fight for. The flaw that we face is in devoting our entire time to this retiring vision and forgetting the current moments and experiences that can define our character.
This cannot be more true than for high school students, who are really headless chickens dancing around the halls, scrambling for good grades to get into college. Is it bad to be planning a successful future for ourselves? Of course not, but being absorbed by the future will leave you wandering in the present. Especially in finals/AP test season, students aren’t studying for the sake of learning. They are trying to cram the required information to pass the hurdles of tests in their way of graduating or just relaxing. While juggling multiple massive assessments on subjects that have nothing in common may be at fault, students are losing the ability to take things one step at a time and enjoy living in the now.
Instead of seeing high school as nothing more than an obstacle to pass, students need to appreciate what they gain from the process in overcoming it. It is at the most hectic moments that we are truly living, when we search ourselves for the answers and seek guidance from others. College may be one or four years away, but it’s not definitely not right now, and students need to enjoy the time they spend in study sessions with friends, the new journeys they explore in class and the molding of their personality in an insane world. What good is going to college if you haven’t discovered yourself?
Even then, what is college if not the same process again for your working life? What is working if not an establishment for family and retirement? By the time we get there, we’ll find ourselves waiting for death, having wasted our entire lives in the perpetual limbo of looking ahead.
Americans in general always fear for the future: what will the Earth be like in 20 years? What will the actions of certain people do for the rest of us ahead? How will we deal with whatever crisis that will surely come up later? Instead of committing our combined energy into worrying about what hasn’t come, why not focus on making things better for ourselves now? We should be asking: what does the Earth look like now? What crisis do we face now? How do we fix the present for the future, not “how do we fix the future for the present?”
Being proactive is one thing, but being intoxicated by the future leaves you unaware at what might plague us now, which can lead to deadly results. If we return to high school finals, there are most likely tests that recycle curriculum from earlier in the year, material that the average teenage brain quickly tossed aside in favor of what the future holds. Now, the resurgence of those lessons has them racing to relearn what they would have already known if they lived in the present and absorbed what they were currently facing.
The world moves fast, but it’s slowing down that allows us to take it in and let it flow through our system, rather than being quickly processed. That isn’t to say that our boots always need to be planted in the present, we just need to remain anchored to it when we begin to float adrift into the future.