I like playing theoretical games in my head. When I have free time, I think about what I will be doing in the next couple of years: Will I get a 520+ on the MCAT in three years? Will I get an Executive Board Position in National Science Olympiad? Will I get into medical school? However, this game has infiltrated itself not only in my academic life but also in my personal life.
My significant other and I have been dating for a year and a half, and now that I’m leaving for college, my mind decided to play the game of “How are you two going to last in the next ten years?” The game consisted of questions like “What if she goes to a different college? How are you going to visit each other? Will you even have time to make FaceTime calls since you are planning on double-majoring?” I’ll be honest with you: the game is absolutely brutal. In this game, I’ve learned that our minds can create some of the most beautiful dreams and fantasies: getting our dream jobs, traveling the world, and spending the rest of our lives with our person. However, by playing this game, I’ve learned that our mind can also create some of the most destructive thoughts: thoughts about relationships not working out, overworking from college, not being able to maintain your physical and mental health due to stress, and so much more. I know that I can make the decision to not play the game, but I found myself playing the game often recently. Despite being happy with my partner, playing this game in my head created the illusion that my relationship is doomed to fail, and that I will not get to spend my forever with the person I love the most. I debated breaking up, knowing that there is a possibility that things might not work out, or that the distance might be too difficult. Now, I wasn’t playing the game; the game was playing with me.
However, my partner said something to me that completely changed everything: “Take things one day at a time.” For my entire life, I have always planned ahead. When I was in middle school, I knew what math and science classes I would be taking in high school, and clubs I was going to join. When I was in high school, I knew what I was going to major in college, and that I needed to volunteer, do some research, maybe become a teacher’s assistant, and so much more. ‘How can I take things one day at a time?’ I thought to myself.
I answered this question after I read a quote by Lao Tzu: “If you are depressed, you are living in the past. If you are anxious, you are living in the future. If you are at peace, you are living in the present.” After reading this quote, I realized that all my thoughts, worries and anxiety were rooted in me playing these games about the future in my head, and living in the future instead of the present. I learned that if I want to be truly happy, I do need to take things one step at a time. Before I start worrying about medical school applications in three years, I should focus on prepping for my General Chemistry I Class in the fall. Before I start worrying about overworking from college, I should wait until classes start and figure out how to adjust my schedule instead of worrying too much. Lastly, before I start worrying about how my partner and I are going to last in an LDR relationship, I realized that I need to enjoy my moments with her in the present before I leave.
Where will I be ten years from now? I could try to answer that question by playing the game again in my head and create a future that doesn’t even exist yet. To be honest, I don’t know where I’ll be ten years from now. What I do know is that I have an exciting freshman year schedule, I have an amazing and supportive partner and family, and that I will meet new friends in the next month.
As cliché as it might sound, do not forget to live in the present. I highly do not recommend playing the game.