On looking forward to things

Are we living in the future so much that we aren’t trying to enjoy the present?

Will Nelson, Senior Columnist

I was reading my old journal entries from last year a few days ago. Exactly 365 days ago at the time that I’m writing this, I was thinking about how quarantine might be good for me. If absence makes the heart grow fonder, I reasoned, maybe my crush would realize their feelings for me and we could be together “once it’s all over in a month or so.” We could read books together on a picnic blanket and watch clouds until the sun went down and the stars came out.

A full year later, we’ve both pretty much completely forgotten about each other, and the pandemic is still in full swing. 

My crush fizzled out like the smoldering remains of a campfire on a rainy night, and the vision I was so eagerly looking forward to was never realized. 

Now I’m sitting at my desk with the first dose of the vaccine running through my veins doing nothing but envisioning how great my summer is going to be. 

Slogging through a spring- break-less semester (and no, a Friday off doesn’t count) with the vaccine rollout sending delicious wafts of hope into our nostrils, looking forward to things seems to have become a favorite pastime. It’s been a hobby throughout the duration of the pandemic, but there’s something about the present moment that says firmly “This really might be over soon,” in Meryl Streep’s voice. 

Looking forward to things — what else is there to do? It’s hard to get out of bed in the morning without it. Wedding of a lifetime or the last sleeve of Girl Scout cookies — knowing that there’s something nice in your future feels like a necessity. But how do we know when we’ve taken it too far?

We talk a lot about ‘living in the past,’ but I don’t hear many conversations about ‘living in the future.’ Maybe people think dreaming is more commendable, more productive, than reflecting, but it really ends up putting you in just about the same place. Past or future, you’re not living in the present, and if you’re not mindful of that you risk missing out on it entirely, which would be a major bummer since the present is literally all that there is.

I never ended up on that picnic blanket, but I had some nice times anyway. I’ll probably have more in the future, and they probably won’t look anything like I think they will now.

That’s the funny thing about life, things don’t usually end up like they do in the little scenes you play through your head while you’re lying in bed at night. You can try your best to set them up, but reality has its own plans. Life is too flighty to let you have that perfect birthday party. One of your friends is bound to have lost their keys and be in a bad mood, or maybe you got spicy buffalo instead of chipotle BBQ sauce with your Chicken McNuggets. There’s nothing you can do about it. 


Looking forward to things can get you through the night, but enjoying them? That’s irreplaceable.