I remember one particular day, a few years ago, when I was driving to my college campus in early morning rush-hour traffic. I distinctly recall how tired, frustrated, and overwhelmed I felt as I mentally tuned-out the annoying commercials on the car radio to ruminate on the long school-day I knew I had ahead of me. As I weaved in and out of whichever car lanes were and were not coming to a dead stop due to construction work and gently rubbed my exhausted eyes from the all-nighter of studying I had pulled the night before, I remember thinking, “I can’t wait for all of this to be over.”
While such a thought is normal and very common in circumstances like these (and certainly not my first time having one), there was something about it that caught my attention that day. As I continued driving, nearing closer and closer to my dreaded destination, I remember thinking how nice it would be to finally have freedom from the constraints of writing school papers and stressing about exams, how great it would feel to no longer sit through my 2.5-hour statistics class, and how I would no longer have to miss out on plans with friends and family on sunny days to instead stay locked inside finishing my work as the daylight seemed to fade to darkness in the blink of an eye. Why would I ever miss any of it?
Well, for whatever reason that morning, my mind decided to come back with an answer to that question.
This answer sparked a kind of subtle fear in me as it revealed the bigger picture surrounding my desperate desire to rush this part of my life: By wishing to rush passed the perceived negatives showing up at different stages of our lives, we simultaneously end up rushing passed the coexisting positives of those stages too.
For example, my wish to live a life free from the drudgery of college academics and responsibilities was also an unintentional wish to rush my youth. On that morning drive a few years ago, I soon realized that I was actually wishing to be at least 3 or 4 years older (though my mind left this part out in my conscious thinking at the time), as this would be the age I’d finally have my bachelor’s and master’s degrees already under my belt. I knew this achievement would of course be great, but there was no denying that it would also come with an end to the kind of freedoms and experiences that are so unique to a “young adult college life.”
It also hit me that a lot can happen in 3 to 4 years, like people I love no longer being as healthy as they were at the time, or even passing away. This was perhaps the most awakening piece for me as I remember thinking not only about the dangers of rushing my own youth, but of also speeding up the aging of my grandparents.
Surprisingly quickly, I remember becoming completely overwhelmed with gratitude as I pulled into my campus entrance and navigated around the big pothole that has so violently-greeted me there many mornings before. I finally recognized that by spending so much time and energy wishing for and rushing toward a “better” point in my life, I was less able to take advantage of the time-sensitive joy I still had available to me then.
As I carried my books and walked to the building of my first class that day, I remember having felt so lucky to have a car that was still functioning properly, a healthy/young mind and body, a beautiful family alive and well, a future of possibilities still ahead of me…. all while fully present in my knowing that this would one day no longer be the case.
This made everything else worth the wait.