It's our choice to live in the moment. Here's how to do it.
Okay, so here’s the thing — I’m going to let you in on a little secret: I love making lists. I’m a true planner at heart, and I have post-it notes for everything.
Of course, there’s the typical notes for work, or weekend errands. But, I mean I’m constantly updating my iPhone Notes with exotic places to travel or dream gift ideas for when I hit the lotto. Or the best taco carts in Brooklyn. You get it.
But, you know the funny part? I know I’m not alone in my obsession. I’ve seen the crumpled post-it notes with lists and cross outs overflowing in the garbage can at work. Type-A personalities like me live for to-do lists, becausedrawing that line through “Wake Up” gives us the same satisfaction as a well-deserved glass of wine. Ha, okay…almost.
But, you see — making lists is actually bad. It’s literally the opposite of YOLO-ing (can I make that a verb?). We need to be here; we need to be present in order to really live a life.
These distractions from the current moment happen all too often, but we continue to do them: walk with headphones in to ignore the crazies, look at your phone to avoid being alone, jump ahead to Friday on a Monday morning to get through the week.
Sorry for being honest, but we’re feeding the Monster here.
Trek through the South Pacific, March 2014
When I first arrived in Airlie Beach, it seemed like life couldn’t get better. I had just returned from an exhilarating three-day camping trip in the isolated place called Fraser Island, where I bonded with friends around bonfires, nursed my hangovers in a naturally freezing Lazy River, and drove a truck over sand dunes instead of pavement.
The sun was still shining. And, I was about to embark on another short trip — except this time we would be sailing through the Whitsunday Islands. The main stop on this trip was to a place called Whitehaven Beach. Magical.
Yeah, this was my reality.
Spending nearly 4 months backpacking through Australia & New Zealand at the age of 21 was awesome — but definitely set some really messed up expectations for what the rest of my life would be like, especially when I started work.
But, when I stopped at the front desk of my hostel, heavy backpack in tow, I was met with a look of pity. The girl who was checking me in shook her head, and told me that my Whitsunday Sailing trip would be delayed until further notice.
The Cyclones were coming.
Cyclones? I shook my head in disbelief. Didn’t she see the bright sunrays, seeping through the hostel’s windows? I had never even heard of cyclones, let alone thought that they could ruin a day that was so beautiful. The girl just shrugged and pushed my room key aside, looking over my shoulder to nod to the next guest.
I felt defeated. Again. This was not the first time that I had to change my schedule for weather delays or timing issues. Yet, I was looking forward to this boat ride through paradise long before I even left New York. Along with snorkeling at the Great Barrier Reef, sailing the Whitsunday Islands was a line on my bucket list that I just had to cross off.
After speaking with the travel agent in charge of my trip, he assured me that if I just stuck it out through the Cyclones, I would be able to sail out a few days later.
I looked at the him almost in disbelief: A few days?! Didn’t he know how precious these days were? I immediately turned to my black moleskin notebook where I meticulously kept my travel itinerary. With a few extra days in Airlie Beach to “wait out the storm,” that would mean I would have to skip Town of 1770; arrive days late to Cairns; maybe even miss a trip to the Great Barrier Reef…
My perfectly manicured list now looked like a huge mess.
People came and went, but the rains didn’t. I spent the first day of rain in the dark depths of my kind-of-smelly hostel room, feeling this weird, completely unwarranted state of anxiety because I had No Control. My plan wasn’t working out. And there was nothing I could do about it.
Just when I thought I could get away with moping around and feeling sorry that my plan was ruined, I was called out on my game. This surfer dude took one look at me and said: “I feel sorry for you Americans; always getting yourselves in a pissy. You need to just chill out — look at where you are right now.”
Well, shit. I decided I wasn’t just going to just sit in my hostel because of a little rain. And looking back on it, I had some of the most fun on my entire trip during those couple of rainy days. I met some cool people, explored in lagoons and bars, and you know what?
If I was in my New York mindset, I probably would have sat inside for the wifi and watched weird cat videos. But instead, I weathered the storm, so to say. I realized that I can’t control every little aspect of my life. And sometimes, you just have to make a choice to be fully in the here and now — rain and all.
Back in the hustle and bustle of a big city, a place with Seamless and Netflix and the bearings of a Big Girl Job, it’s so easy to remove yourself from the moment.
We’re incessantly busy.
And, it starts to make us bad people. We push and shove and fight for the last 6-pack of Blue Moon at Trader Joes, even when we have everything we could ever need right at our fingertips.
And even if you think you’re fully immersed in a moment, how many times do you check your phone for a count if Instagram likes? Look through a menu on Seamless for the dinner you’ll order when you get home? Plan out your timeline of chores (GTL?) that can only start happening after 7PM when you leave work — if you’re lucky?
Listen, I get it. I’ve been there. And, it’s not too fun. So, let’s take a tip from the Australians and “chill” a little bit. We can take a step back and be here. I knew I had to do something different when I noticed I started wishing people a “Happy Friday” like it was a holiday or something.
So, I willed myself to stop thinking 10 steps ahead when I only needed two. Every time I felt myself getting a little stressed out because of something that was happening in like, a year (i.e. finding an apartment that didn’t have cockroaches), I took a step back. Did I really need to start thinking about that right now?
Just enjoy your wine on your tiny little couch in your 4th floor walk up right now instead. Because honestly, this moment is magical. You will never have it again.