Forget the past & future, focus on the now

Constant questions about the future have the tendency to make us forget about our present


Agh, thinking sucks.

“What are you studying? What are you going to do after you graduate? Are you excited? What do you plan on doing with your degree? Are you going to get a job? When do you think you’ll get married?”

I’m sure you’ve all had these questions asked before by your parents, friends, or even someone that you’ve just met.

I dread getting asked these questions. Yet, I find myself attempting to find the answers every single day.

I was driving to a friend’s house the other day, and these thoughts kept bugging me the entire drive. The main question I had was, how am I going to make it in this life? By the time I arrived to their house, I realized that I made myself genuinely upset about a future that hasn’t even happened yet.

Do I have an answer to these questions? If I did, I wouldn’t be writing this. I barely even know what I’m going to be doing in the next 30 seconds, let alone the next 40 years. Yet, there is this expectation that I need to have a plan in place, I have to know exactly what I’m doing, or that’s it! I won’t be successful at all.

However, through my years here at UTM, I’ve come to realize one thing: I have no idea what I’m doing, nor do I know where I’m going. And you won’t either.

I came to university thinking I was studying criminology so that I could become a cop, and then work my way up the ranks to become a detective. This was my answer whenever anyone asked me the same questions I previously mentioned. Man, did I get a huge amount of appreciation for “having my life together” and knowing exactly my plan for the future. I was golden.

Did it stress me out when I got asked these questions? Of course it did, because when I gave them that answer, I wasn’t even sure if that was what I wanted to do. I researched more and more into going into law enforcement, and the more I kept researching, the more I was nervous to realize that I didn’t really want to follow that path. Now that I’m about to graduate, I get asked these questions frequently, but now I get asked them knowing that people are expecting a legitimate long-term plan from me. It’s not so much that I’m nervous to say that I have no plan after graduation. What makes me nervous is telling them that I want to go into photography and film. The usual response is, “Oh, that’s cool.” And this is only because of this idea that not only do I need to have a plan, but I also need to go into something with stability, benefits, and security.

So when they respond with “Oh that’s cool,” it’s really a “How are you going to survive? That isn’t a profession.” I become fixated on figuring out this plan. I forget what I’m doing now, and begin stressing myself over creating my life-long plan for the future.

I quickly realized that this world is not as linear as we all think it is. We expect ourselves to know exactly what we’re doing with our lives after we graduate. And by doing so, we become stressed, depressed, and upset, all because we want to know where we’re going. We develop this dangerous mentality of needing to have a plan, otherwise we’re screwed.

However, after my first year, it took a lot in me to realize that I don’t think I’ll ever know exactly where I’m going or what I’m doing. Do I still think about my future and try to mould it? Of course, it runs through my head every day.

But I think we constantly forget that we just need to stop thinking about the past and the future so often. We depress ourselves over mistakes we’ve made, yet we also depress ourselves about things that haven’t happened yet. But we never think about one moment in our lives­—right now.

We’re conditioned to only think about tomorrow and to reflect and memorialize the past. But why do we keep waiting for tomorrow to do something, when we have right now to do it? Even while we experience the moment now, we continue to only think about the future. Our minds wander and never allow us to situate ourselves here. I mean, I find myself doing this all the time, and I always end up worrying myself more than I should be.

Easier said than done—and I know, it’s a cliché thing to say.  However, we bring more harm to ourselves than good if we solely focus on what’s already passed or what hasn’t happened yet.

Like I said, I wanted to be a cop. Now, I want to go into photography and film. Is this an answer most people want to hear to those questions? Probably not. Does it necessarily mean that I am going to be in that field in the next two years? Who knows? Life likes to just keep going without telling you.

My dad always repeats John Lennon’s lyric from his song, “Beautiful Boy”, “Life is what happens to you when you’re busy making other plans.” We get caught up in planning the future and worrying about the past, yet we never look at ourselves in the moments that we’re in right now.

Now, I’m not saying I’m the master of placing myself in the moment, but I do try. It’s all you can do. It’s easy to let yourself be drawn back to the past, and into the unknown future. However, we have to realize that life never stops for you. I think that if you learn from your past and remind yourself that what’s done is done­—it’s unchangeable—you have the ability to remember where you are now. What you think might happen in the future doesn’t matter. What you do right now in this very moment is the only thing that matters.

Mahmoud Sarouji
Managing Editor