Recently I have found myself struggling with various aspects of my current situation. As the end of my academic career creeps to an end with my impending graduation in May, I am having a mild existential crisis, wondering what the hell I’m going to do with the rest of my life. I have a tendency to overthink things sometimes, and this is most likely what is happening to me now, but I can’t help but be a bit nervous/scared of what is to come for me after I graduate with my Master’s degree. My whole life, up to this point, has been partially defined by me “being a student in school.” I have always had this to fall back on when “life things” come up. I have always told myself that I will make more money after I graduate, that I will be able to afford certain things, do certain things, and pay certain bills (i.e., student loan bills…) upon transitioning from my academic life and out into the “real world.”
Now, this longtime fallback excuse is coming to an end. I am entering the “real world” and I find myself struggling to wrap my head around what my life will look like without being in school. I must have changed my mind dozens of times while in school as to exactly what I want to do with my life, and I still don’t have a concrete idea of what I want to do. This is precisely what scares me the most about all of this, not only because it affects the trajectory of my professional career, but because this decision affects so many other aspects of my life. I am terrified by the fact that my life, beyond May, is a fuzzy, jumbled series of events that I can’t seem to string together into perfection. I have always perferred to have consistency and certainty in my life, and right now I feel as if my future is anything but certain!
I know I am not the only one out there that has or will experience this, but it doesn’t make it any less horrifying. I often find myself unable to sleep at night over the fact that I simply don’t know if I’ll be able to pay for certain bills or expenses as I transition from school to full-time work. My focus during workouts has began to drift from what the bottom of a pool looks like or how nice it will feel to get to the top of a mountain to thoughts about how I’m going to pay for races this year, how I’m going to afford to move into my own home one day, or even how I’ll ever be able to afford being in a relationship (assuming the right person walks into my life in the near future). I worry over whether or not it was smart for me to have gone to graduate school, accumulating $100,000 in student loan debt throughout the process, or whether I should play it safe and find a normal, steady, well-paying, comfortable job or follow what I I am truly passionate about and take a chance on opening my own coaching company. These are just the beginning of my concerns.
In the midst of all the craziness going on inside my head, I found myself the other day stopping and thinking to myself, “Why?” am I stressing myself out so much over the future and forgetting to enjoy the present moment? Up to this point in my life, things have always had a way of working themselves out. I’m healthy and fit. I have food to eat and a roof over my head. I’m surrounded by people that care about me, and I have dreams in my head. At the end of the day, that’s all I really need in order to live my life. All of the other innocuous details will work themselves out, eventually. I think this was an important realization for me, as it reminded me of the importance of being present and mindful of the current moment I am living in. Sure, tomorrow may be partially unknown and may be a bit scary to think about, but today is pretty amazing. I have all the essentials and I am currently loving what I am doing every day.
I get to wake up each day and do some pretty cool things! I have the freedom to swim, ride my bike, and run in pursuit of my triathlon dreams. I have the time in my schedule to work on setting up my own coaching company, I have the luxury of being able to learn, read, grow, help others. Although it’s expensive, I go to a great school and have received an amazing education because of this. I travel. I meet amazing people. I get to work on writing a book and this blog post! would I waste what I have right now worrying over what the future may look like. Sure, some strategic planning for my future is essential, but learning to appreciate more of what I have right now is just as important.
I’m certainly not the only one out there that worries about their future or dwells on their past, forgetting to appreciate right now. These thoughts and worries tear us all up a bit on the inside, leaving us more stressed, worried, regretful, or scared than we might like to be. That’s where the power of enjoying today comes into play. As simple as it may sound, it’s difficult to do in practice, but it makes life so much more enjoyable. All of my favorite memories of recent past revolve around enjoying the present moment. Whether it was my first century ride on my bike, sharing a great conversation with someone (preferably over a cup of coffee), finishing the first draft of my book, or learning how to do a flip-turn in the pool, it all required me being present in that moment. I wasn’t worried about my life 6 months from then or what I was like 6 months prior. I was enjoying that moment or series of moments exactly for what it was, without a worry in the world of what was to come tomorrow.