Column: Live in the now, to appreciate life

Column: Live in the now, to appreciate life

Don’t get me wrong; I’m a big fan of fall. The air is invigorating, there are pumpkins to be carved and apples to be gathered. October is the month supreme. But every year I’m still sadly surprised that my favorite month is seemingly ruined by obligations.

For students, this time of the year is the pits; worse than the first test in a new class, and somehow worse than the week of final exams. It’s just one unwanted commitment and headache after another.

Right around now, we’ve got midterms, a slew of papers and a library’s worth of reading. Plus, here at Northeastern, it’s time to start applying for co-op jobs for the spring rotation. That’s enough to make the workload far more frightening than this month’s most famous holiday. And all things considered, it’s enough to make us wish we were graduating, which I often do.

But sometimes it takes the wisdom of a stranger to snap you back into focus and make you appreciate the bigger picture.

I had the good fortune of getting stuck next to one such stranger on a flight to Virginia this past weekend. His name is Dave. Like me, Dave hails from Texas, and like a true Texan, he married young. He and his wife, Sarah, decided early on that they didn’t want kids for a good long while. Instead, they’d pursue their dreams. Hers is to be an opera star and his is to receive his MBA and encourage his wife – while traveling the world.

Dave supports Sarah in an uncommon way: he has adjusted his job and post-grad work to fit into her ever-changing location as a rising star in the opera world. It hasn’t been easy, and there are certainly no guarantees in opera, Dave said. But he’s just along to enjoy the ride, and despite the tough times, the pair is loving it.

That’s when he dropped this little tidbit: “The struggle is the fun part.”

So simple, yet so sensible. Think about movies. The “happily ever after” is the boring part that’s always just a brief mention before the credits roll. But the trials and tribulations – that is the story.

There is no more crucial time in a student’s life to hear this basic wisdom than now. We’re knee-deep in commitments. And as students, life is a constant struggle. As freshmen, it’s a struggle to liberate ourselves from parental confines and find our individuality in a new environment, and for older students it’s a struggle to find our place in the world before entering the cutthroat job market. Plus, there are the money struggles, grade struggles and love struggles that come messily packaged with our age. And for the most part, they are struggles we’d rather skip.

In the movie analogy, we’re ready to fast-forward to the end credits. Heck, I’m 21 and I’m already lusting for retirement.

But retirement can’t be that great if you don’t have anything to look back at and be proud of, right? So why not “live in the now,” as Garth so eloquently says in “Wayne’s World”?

I could certainly apply this insight. I tend to live more in the future, while forgetting the past and cursing the present.

I elected to skip a third co-op and graduate a year early to dip my foot in the real world a bit. Since then, school has felt like the proverbial albatross I’ve been carrying as I inch toward life’s true starting point. It shouldn’t be that way. Am I really shirking the present? There’s only one way to find out.

I did what any 21-year-old straight man would do: I took an online Cosmopolitan quiz asking the deep question, “Do you live in the now?”

With the exception of one question about “mounting my man” in a movie theater, which I simply applied to the opposite sex, the quiz was relatively applicable to my current state.

I qualified as a “Savvy Free Spirit,” meaning I’ve “had moments of unplanned pleasure,” yet I “wouldn’t chance a reckless move.” Apparently, what separates me from a rash decision maker is that I “weigh situations instead of relying solely on [my] impulses.”

I don’t know how scientific this Cosmo quiz is, but perhaps in my savvy free-spiritedness I’m being a bit too pragmatic. My mind is always leaning toward the future, but tethered reluctantly to the present. I’m never slowing down to just enjoy life as it happens. The movie’s rolling, but I’m not paying attention. To use another adage, we’re only young once. We should be enjoying our scrappy youth.

Now is a good time to reclaim that lust for life. As the best month on the calendar, October is a great time to live. My advice to students: Don’t let its workload eat you alive. After all, the struggle is the fun part.

– Glenn Yoder can be reached at [email protected]

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