Ever since I was in middle school, I have been waiting for my life to begin. “It will start in High school” I would repeat over and over. I would draw pictures of the cool teenage outfits I would wear, and I would watch movie after movie about proms and first loves and nights spent breaking the rules and making memories. Middle school seemed so trivial compared to what was in store for me. The awkward dances where pimply boys held you at arm’s length and stepped slowly side to side. The fact that I wasn’t allowed to stay out past 10 or that I wasn’t able to be a part of adult discussions, I was still at the kids’ table. Middle school was just a waiting game; I’d endure it, I’d put up with it, and then on the first day of high school, my life was going to kick in.
Then it was the first day of high school, and it was the same. I was a little fish in a big pond, and I had no more freedom than I did a few months before when I was in eighth grade. No boys were whisking me off my feet, and the perfect friends didn’t surround me. I didn’t have the best grades, and I got acne and a bad hair cut. It was going to get better. Sixteen was when it all would get better. I would be able to drive I would have cool friends, and we would do cool things, I would be the top of my class and in control of my life. My hair would no longer resemble a lamp shade.
And now I’m sixteen. Yeah, my hair’s grown out, and the acne is pretty much gone, but life isn’t the young adult novel I thought it was going to be. I spend a lot of my time worrying about school or scooping popcorn at my job, and I can’t help but fantasize about the life I’ll have in college. I’ll be living in some big city, learning about things that interest me and having crazy adventures with crazy friends. All that is just a year away; one long, long year. High school and the town I live in are all just annoying stops along the way to my final destination, the start of my life.
Though…my life started sixteen and a half years ago and I just never realized it. I was told a few weeks ago to live in the moment. I’ve heard this a thousand times from my parents, my teachers, and my friends but I’ve always brushed them off as ignorant.
“If you haven’t got something to be aiming for what’s the point of life?” I would say. Maybe it was because I had just had a 1am meltdown about universities that I won’t be applying to for another six months but this “live in the moment” idea really struck me. Since then I’ve been looking back over my life and have realized that I had been stuck in the future, and I have been unhappy there.
Not only did my refusal to accept my current state in life make me enjoy things less, but also it meant I was disappointed when things didn’t turn out as grand as I thought they would.
I’m starting to accept that my life is never going to be perfect, but it is going to be great and has been great. I’m reflecting back on how much fun going to the mall with my friends was in middle school…all the good times I had in school plays, on trips with my family and the silly things I wore. I look back on my high school career so far and realize that I was surrounded by people who loved me and accepted me even though I didn’t appreciate it. I had experiences that shaped me and friends that I was lucky to know (most of which I took for granted). But no more.
I’m taking time now to love who I am, where I am, when I am. I don’t want to just get through the day, month, or year. I want to enjoy it because I am lucky to have it. These friends, places, and experiences I have are not just placeholders: they are my life, and they are amazing. Even my town, which has always bored me, is incredible and exciting if you let it be.
I’m trying to focus more on today, and I am happier for it.
Now, it’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy growing up, I did. I just believe that I could have been happier if I had focused more on where I was, not where I was going. I can’t change the past, but I do want to make sure that I learn from my mistake of not appreciating where I was. I still believe that it is crucial to have goals and work towards them, but you can’t forget to stop and smell the roses, seize the day or follow any other live-in-the-present cliche that you can think of. You’re only this old once, so you might as well make the best of it and embrace what comes.