Graduations are one of many new beginnings in life. They are a time when one door closes and another opens. Many of us can recall or can imagine how that feels, to be in the midst of the excitement of embarking on the next length of your journey, imagining what it will be like, and mentally preparing to go onto the next level. Elementary to middle school, middle to high school, high school to college/trade school, and ultimately into a meaningful life of purpose. I’ve heard it asked time and time again, “If you could go back and say one thing to your former self, what would that be?” My answer: Be Present.
Wherever you may be on your journey, each graduation marks the completion of one length of the journey and the opening of a new beginning or a new path toward realizing fuller potential. For some, this realization comes more quickly than others. Some struggle with the unfamiliarity and anxiety that the next stage elicits. And for some, it is unremarkable because their sights are too narrow, and they cannot consider the possibilities and can’t figure out the next step. In any and all of these situations the key is Be Present.
I’m sure throughout your life you have had well meaning parents, teachers, and others coaxing you toward completing levels in the game of life. And if you are like me, much of that was a blur, a whirlwind of pushing through and pushing forward toward what you should be doing. What if you were to allow yourself to imagine now more fully what each level may have been like if you could have more leisurely explored, been able to think of the questions then that easily pop into mind now, or perhaps had a different view of things? But don’t think of the “if only’s” for too long, lest you get stuck in regrets. My grandmother frequently said, “You can not put old heads on young shoulders.” I think she meant that you must experience life right where you are because some of life’s best experiences evolve from the experiences we have, including the tougher times. We can’t go back and undo how we’ve lived prior to this moment, so vow now to keep your mind alert and Be Present.
Perhaps you are the type of person who has had your eye on the prize and been so driven that simultaneously you let things pass you by without taking the time to enjoy and savor the experience fully. Would you have tried another skill, let go of something that no longer served you, joined in a group or cause that tugged on your heart strings, made room to read for fun, taken a hike with a friend, not joined in with some that were doing things rebelliously, or perhaps something else comes to mind.
Let all of this go now. What’s done is done and looking in the past too long only distracts you from taking next right steps toward the outcomes you so desire. So, move forward and Be Present.
What does it mean to Be Present? Living life more fully in the moment by knowing yourself more deeply and fully, uninterrupted by the distractions of others or the guilt or concern of living up to someone else’s expectations for you. It takes time to undo some of the learned behaviors that have held you through life thus far. But it is worth self examination if you are to live the life you want to live and be more in touch with your authentic self, the you who is accepting of you just the way you are, who is not so caught up in the hustle and bustle of life or the expectations or standards or others. The you who needs time and space to figure things out, explore and wonder.
There is no time like now to Be Present.
Summer break is usually the academic respite, but it need not be lazy. This is your time to reset. Honor this time and refocus on taking yourself closer to your heart’s desire. When you think of the concept of Being Present, it doesn’t have to be some hard to reach new age concept. It merely has to be uninterrupted focus to touch into that part of yourself that has been guiding you all along. I like to call this higher conscience. Your authentic self is an invaluable part of our internal guidance system that is unique to each person and often overlooked. You surely know when you are physically hungry or tired, but how often do you listen to that still small voice that tells you “jot that down,” “maybe it would be a good idea to stay in and read tonight,” “take the dog for a long walk and just allow yourself to enjoy the woods for a while.” Life’s hectic pace takes us away from doing the things that source our soul and being in touch with our authentic self. Your authentic self is crucial to Being Present.
This is not a one size fits all, as you may have noticed by some of your experiences through each of life’s levels thus far. We are all unique, and our talents are rightfully the same in that they are the gift we have to offer the world. For that reason it is truly important to follow what is alive inside of you, to know yourself enough so that you pursue that which will bring fuller meaning to you in your life now.
Jacqueline Muller is Clinical Director and Owner of Dynamic Intervention Wellness Solutions. She is a NY State Licensed Clinical Social Worker.