Time moves quickly as one gets older. It hardly seems possible that it’s been a year since I sat at home in agony, crying over my class load. I was overwhelmed and felt like I had been given a death sentence. A weight was hanging upon my shoulders and a darkness shrouding my mind that I had not experienced in years.
I’m not one for tears, nor am I one with swinging emotions, but for some reason I couldn’t shake the feelings of desperation and helplessness. It was all I could do to get through each day, and I’d often find myself randomly breaking down in response to the pressure. My sleep was restless and I often lay awake at night unable to sleep, afraid I might be forgetting something, or that if I closed my eyes, my mental stress might physically manifest itself and asphyxiate me in my sleep. I was constantly working to get ahead in my assignments so that I could reach a place where I could relax, take a break, or attend some social event over the weekend, but it didn’t seem to matter how much extra work I did; I was always just barely keeping up. I’d get ahead, only to have something unexpected come up, or company spending the night, and I lost all the free time I had worked so hard to gain.
I realize I probably sound crazy here. I mean, completing a college education is a gift, not a burden. True, and I’m incredibly grateful for my education. But you see, school had always come relatively easily for me. I worked and studied hard to make good grades, always knowing that it would pay off with a good GPA. This semester, I worked harder than usual, but received the two lowest grades of my entire academic career – a 50 and a 0. News of the zero came after a fun and exhausting weekend of celebrating and preparing for my sister’s wedding. Needless to say, I was shell shocked when I saw the grade and my emotional stability level quickly regressed. A phone call and a rewrite later, and my professor graciously bumped my grade up to a 70 and then a 90.
That few months were some of the longest and darkest of my life. I guess when you’re experiencing those life moments, they seem to drag on forever and you can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. Now that time as passed and distanced myself from the events, it doesn’t seem as horrible. At the time, I didn’t know how I was going to make it to the end of the semester. I got through by focusing on one day at a time. Anytime I tried to look at the entire schedule or list of things to do, I got overwhelmed and couldn’t accomplish much.
A year later, I am realizing that life is a journey of plugging away one day or one task at a time. Sometimes I get overwhelmed and scared thinking about how much I haven’t done and how much I want to do and need to do. There’s always something looming ahead. I want to make a difference, I need to do go grocery shopping, I want to leave a legacy, I need to clean the house or do laundry (again), I want to travel the world, I want to buy a house, I need to save for retirement, I want to get a job, I want to be a better wife, I want to save for new kitchen appliances/clothes/personal stuff/furniture, I need to replace something that broke, I want to visit family, I want to learn a language, I want to live overseas, I need to start paying for health insurance, and someday I might want to have kids, in which case there’s a whole slew of other things that will be added to that list.
The tasks ahead of me sometimes scare me, just as my homework did last year. I keep having to remind myself that instead of getting intimidated and doing nothing, or focusing on everything and becoming overwhelmed, I have to focus on the here now and what I can do today; I can’t get everything done in a day, or even a year, or a decade. Everything takes time; books aren’t written overnight, weight isn’t shed in a week, income doesn’t multiply every month, and retirement savings aren’t built in a year.
I have to remember to celebrate and enjoy the here now rather than get too caught up in the future. Otherwise, I’ll look back with regrets for not ever really living my life, only preparing for my ideal of a future, always feeling overwhelmed and depressed by everything I needed to accomplish. On the other hand, I can’t totally put off the things of future, but I need to give myself grace and remember it can’t be done overnight. I need to stop, take a breath, and celebrate the small things I am accomplishing in preparing for the future, and the gifts I’ve been given today. Can I fully fund my Roth IRA this year? No, but I can add another $100 this month. The present me should celebrate this, and someday the future 65 year old Janna will get to celebrate again. Can I buy a new coffee table? No, but I can refinish/repaint this one so it looks like new. Can I take my children to Disney Land? No, but I can put $20 into his or her college fund.
Life is a journey of small moments, and each one is worth savoring (am I crazy to say that I miss homework?!). Don’t get stuck worrying about tomorrow and all the things yet to be done. Live a life of gratitude and celebrate what you have accomplished!