What Happens Now?

Have you ever really thought about how short life is? I don’t ask this with the sole intent of being cliché. In all seriousness, have you actually sat down and evaluated how limited your time really is? As I get older (having reached the ripe old age of 18) it’s really hitting me how little time we are allotted to simply live.

Two of the largest components that make up one’s life are stress and responsibilities. It has become a sort of social norm to worry about work and success first, and free-time and life later. The big goal for people’s lives in society, the golden ticket, the finish line for this long race we all run, is to be successful. Right? You work hard in school so you can get into a good college. You get into a good college to land that high-paying dream job that everybody else is thirsty for. Then once you have it, you get even hungrier and strive for a higher position– one that makes even more money so you can support your family and live a “happy” life. Then after it’s all said and done, and you’ve reached retirement, society says NOW you can rest, reap the reward to all your hard work and enjoy happiness.

Have we redefined what that word means? “Happy”. What does it mean to you? To me, happiness is not a goal, it’s a traveling companion. You shouldn’t wait until the end of your prime to find happiness, you should seek it and mingle with it every single day. I often find myself worrying about what’s to come, I think a form of tunnel vision overcomes us and forces us to disregard all the minor happy aspects that are enlaced in everyday life. At least I know I, for one, have lost sight of the big picture.

Growing up is stressful. However, I don’t think that it should be as anxiety-inducing as it has evolved to be. Growing up should be fun, empowering, awe-inspiring, and just the right amount of scary. It’s a time when you should come to find who you truly are and explore all the different avenues that life has to offer you. Instead I feel as though it has become the most stressful time of a person’s life. You have to figure out what to do with the rest of your life immediately after receiving your high school diploma because you mustn’t waste time in digging yourself mountains of debt for the higher education necessary to get a job that thousands of other people are competing for simply to put food on your table and a roof over your head.

Much like many people would say marijuana is a gateway drug, graduating high school is like a gateway stress. As marijuana can lead to more dangerous, and more serious drugs, graduating high school leads to even greater stresses.

So much is expected of us all the time.

I don’t want to slip into a routine of 9-5 days anticipating weekends like they’re my savior from the rest of the world. Wasting years commuting, working late hours, doing countless homework assignments just to suddenly blink and be 90 years old wondering where the time went. Wondering why I didn’t travel the world like I wanted to. Wondering why I stayed at that dead-end job for 34 years hoping I would get a promotion that never came. Wondering why I turned down all those invitations to barbeques and other events because I simply had “too much going on”. Wondering why all this time I was so caught up in trying to make something of myself that I forgot to enjoy my very existence.

I don’t want to be like that. Nobody wants to be like that.

So how does one get out? How do you break the cycle? How do you just flip a switch and have everything the way you want it?

They say do what you love and it won’t feel like work. But how do you find something you love when everything you do leaves you feeling meaningless? What if you can do a lot of things, but none of them make you feel compassion or joy? What happens when you sit yourself down and think about every possible means of making a living that would be enjoyable to you, yet still come up empty-handed? What do you do when you feel like you’re being sucked down into a black hole of the mediocre? A life in which you look ahead to tomorrow until there’s no more tomorrow to look to? Then what do you have? Is it really all avoidable or do we trick our minds into thinking we are content because deep down we know it doesn’t get any better?

I don’t know. Maybe I’m just cynical, or maybe it’s the teen angst talking. But the more I look around, and I mean really look around, the more I realize that we all seem to be in a similar rut. Wondering where we are going, what we’re going to do in the future, how we can work harder to reach that, and stuck in the regret of what we didn’t do that prevented us from already being there.

Maybe this is as good as it gets and we just have to learn to accept it. Or maybe our eyes just need to be opened wider so that we can catch ourselves before we fall. Life is short, but some people have learned how to live it rather than live through it. There’s obviously a way to escape mediocrity, some of us may just have to search a little harder to find it.