Whenever I’m frustrated with life, I look for escape in old pictures and memories. Today while at work, at a job that me from last year wouldn’t even believe I was able to land, I did just that. I started looking at pictures of myself from last year. I was glowing, smiling, happy looking, and full of life. I thought to myself, “What went wrong?” As I continued reminiscing about those past experiences, I asked myself why it seemed like my life was so much better a year ago. Why did I look so much happier? What was the difference between me then and me now? Frustrated and confused, I asked myself, “Were you happy in these pictures?” Was I truly content in the moments I was now comparing the present to? Honestly, I wasn’t okay in most of the pictures. I felt lost, confused, scared, and insecure during the time that many of the photos were taken. I had just moved to New York, was struggling to find an apartment, was working a job that wasn’t in my field, was scared that I wouldn’t be successful in grad school, and was terrified that I wouldn’t make any friends. Ironically, I remember looking back at pictures from the previous year and wishing for my old life. The cycle continued.
If I know I felt that way when those pictures were taken, why did looking back at them now feel so different?
It’s because everything worked out.
Everything that I was worried about in those moments turned out okay.
Looking back now with all the anxiety, doubt, and fear that I had in those moments gone, I’m able to remember the good times, the laughs, and the genuine experiences. However, I couldn’t see any of that a year ago. I couldn’t separate the good from the bad times because the future’s unknown consumed me. My whole experience was warped because I couldn’t live in the present. Instead of living in the moment, I spent my time waiting. Waiting on the next big thing to happen for me that would make me feel sure of myself, the thing that would make me feel safe. Something that would assure me that I wasn’t going to fail. I wasn’t looking at my experiences then and thinking of all the positives; I was dwelling on the negatives. Everything was clouded with “what ifs?” Why was that? I know hindsight is 20/20, but why is it so easy to see the good times in my life only when I look back? By no means was my life perfect a year ago, but when I look back at it now, I can separate the good times from the bad. I can see that the bad wasn’t all bad at all, that it turned out to be good in the long run.
So, I ask myself, when do I stop the cycle? When do I begin to be present in my life instead of being consumed by fear of the future? When do I stop wishing it was Friday, for school to end, or that my life was already figured out, hoping for anything but my reality? I’ve spent so much time wishing life away that I’ve missed out on being present for many important moments because they felt mundane. Moments that didn’t feel like part of the “big plan” for my future, a 5+ year plan that is structured and must run exactly the way I mapped it out. In doing this, I’ve realized I close myself to so much joy and happiness by living in that waiting room of fear. Always longing for something else instead of appreciating what my reality is right now. Enjoying the time I had to rest when I was unemployed or the money I saved on bills when I lived with my mom instead of feeling anxious and stuck.
Anytime I feel stuck in life, I’m learning to stop and sit with the uncomfortable feelings of doubt, longing, frustration, and fear. To try not to run and escape these feelings but to rest in the peace of knowing that everything will work out just like it has in the past. It might not work out exactly how I planned, but that’s the beauty of life. Sometimes you don’t always know what’s best for you; sometimes, things work out even better than you planned.