Most of my time I spend wishing to be where I am not.
Sometimes it's because I'm a dreamer who is always planning the next adventure. Sometimes it's because I am a very nostalgic person and view my past experiences through rose-colored glasses. Sometimes it's even because, as an introvert, I sometimes just want to escape social situations to eat food in my dorm room. Regardless of the reason, I know that I am constantly torn between where I want to be and where I am; between the present and past or future. This leads to some pretty contradictory situations: like when I spent my high school years wishing I were on an adventure away from my town, and I spent my first college year wishing I could go back to my home town in the Netherlands. But most of all, this leads to me thinking that my happiness is always somewhere else.
But that is never true. We can still find happiness between the past and the future.
For me, my tendency to look forward can mean that I am trying to escape a situation that I wish could be better. I use wishing to be somewhere else as an escape from where I am now. But I've learned that no situation is ever perfect. Every situation can come with fights, with anger, with sadness, and with loneliness. Even the most phenomenal situations – like family vacations across the world or reuniting with your very best friend – will still never be without flaws. Contentment in our circumstances, therefore, means that we acknowledge imperfection in all of our circumstances. It also means that, rather than wishing to escape from a situation, it's up to us to find the good.
I learned this lesson in college by taking a really challenging class that I didn't see the point of. I can tell you that I spent a lot of my time regretting my decision to take this class and wishing that I could be in another class instead. But I also know that I gained both determination and new friendships through this class. This class just serves to me as an example that good can still come out of any situation we'd wish to escape from.
I also always look back because I am convinced that I was happier in the past. But I've learned that, if we're not happy in our circumstances, we'll miss the blessings that come with them right in the present. Lots of the blessings are ones that I know I often overlook these blessings because I take them for granted. For instance, going out for dinner with my family is not extraordinary, because we have gone out for dinner regularly in the past, and I know that we will continue to go out for dinner in the future too. But this is no excuse for me to not live in the moment because no matter how routine our dinners are, it is still so lovely to share good food and moments of laughter with my family for an evening. Nothing can be taken for granted – not the jokes you share with your friends, the conversations you have with your roommate or the Skype calls to your family. If we constantly desire to be where we used to be, we won't have the chance to reap the blessings of where we are right now.
This year, I've learned a lot about learning to be happy with where I am and what I'm doing, day in and day out. Whether it's a daily routine, such as spending time with my dog, or it's a special occasion, like going to a concert, I try to be thankful for every moment. I'm trying to not take my life for granted because I know that one day I will miss where I used to be. And I'm trying to appreciate the good in my circumstances, so I stop thinking about where I will be and start thinking about where I am. This summer, I've got a lot of excitement ahead of me – but that's a problem for later. I'm going to focus on the time that I have in front of me, being thankful for my circumstances and for where I am, right now.