Here and there

Staying in the present moment: a personal testimony

“It’s this simple Lauren: stay in the present moment,” he said.


 If only it was that simple. 


I had been seeing the same therapist for a little over a year now, and to be brutally honest I was getting a little fed up with it. We have had this same conversation more than once, and more than once I wrote it off as a load of you-know-what. This time was different though, this time I was desperate. I had come to the realization that I was incapable of escaping my cyclical thoughts about the future and what it may hold. It was all I could think about day and night. 

I was an ambitious child, the curse of the eldest daughter you could say. I was pushed into every possible activity, whether it be figure skating, rowing, debate team, book clubs, dance, or french horn. I did it all. While enrichment is not necessarily a bad thing, it raised me into a perpetual state of always expecting the next thing. There was a tangible anticipation in the air as I got older, that I was expected to do something great. I found myself stuck looking for the next big thing in life. Like a hamster on a wheel, my brain turned into a spinning wheel of opportunities lost or experiences to be gained. 

By the time my freshman year of college came around, everything I lived and breathed was preparations for a life I had not yet lived. I reduced myself to a resume of all my “accomplishments” and all the things that had not happened yet. I had forgotten how to be present. It seemed like the only thing I did was plan for the future. Despite all of this, I received praise for my grades, for my extracurriculars, and for what seemed to be an interesting and fulfilling time at college. But the truth was, I did not have many friends and spent most of my time alone.

Sophomore year. I thought it would be the same or better than freshman year. I would cruise through the classes, make even more friends, and I could finally accomplish something great. After all, I was vice president of my sorority, I was training to be the next editor of the JTAC, and I was also on track to present and publish research…as an undergrad. Not to mention, all while trying to make Dean’s List for a third time. I found out very quickly that this was not going to be the case for me. 

I was four weeks into the semester when I completely dropped from my sorority. This came after a very traumatizing ego blow where I realized, not many people actually liked me. Not even my own “big sister,” who had intent on replacing me, again, with another “little sister.” Turns out, it did not matter how funny or kind I was, it did not matter how much of my heart and soul I poured into the organization, I received a lot of backlash regardless of what I did, even though my sisters were the ones who put me in that position to start with. My mind turned for weeks over the comments my “friends” had made. I felt like I could not stop thinking about all the things I had done wrong, all the things I could do in the future, and all that it felt like I lost. 

After that disaster, I was chomping at the bit for some sort of validation of my efforts. Which came quickly when the editor position I was training for opened up. I moved into the position, and found that I truly loved the people I was working with. There was no better feeling than working to make a tangible product out of the fruits of our labor. The JTAC Instagram grew, I became moderately decent at photography, and found my footing in my worth as a writer, editor, and friend. Yet, I could not stop thinking about the “next big thing” coming up, it seemed as if it would never end. 

It was not until this Spring, while writing desperately in a journal for some consolation, that I truly faced my fears. I did not want to be present. That was the issue. If I was “present” it meant I had to face everything I did not want to see. Everything from what I looked like, to how I talked, my failures of the fall, and lastly: my never ending fear of the unknown. I had to set my pen down after that one. 

From that moment on, I was determined to change the way I lived. I started saying affirmations to myself to help better my self esteem, I started putting my heart into the things that I loved like music and photography. I spent more time with my grandparents, I leaned into the things that felt uncomfortable, yet worthwhile, like reaching out to old friends and making plans. Do not get me wrong, I still have bad days, I still have days where I worry incessantly, and days where I do not try as hard as I should. However, if there is one thing I do know; I would rather be here, in the present. Rather than there, in the future, in a world that is yet to come to fruition, where the unknown is truly unknown.