On the Dangers of Worrying About the Future
I can separate my semesters in college into two categories: those wasted worrying, and those spent seizing opportunities. The following is a reflection on what I learned from living through both semesters.
This morning as I finished Robert Iger's audiobook, A Ride of a Lifetime, one of his lessons at the end of the book stood out to me: Don't let ambition get ahead of opportunity. What he meant was that fixating on what you want to have in the future can often lead to impatience in the present. Impatience distracts us from tending to the responsibilities we already have. By being patient we can do our best in our current work and free up space in our mind to see the opportunities for learning and growing that are right in front of us. Taking these opportunities is what leads us to where we want to go.
Most of my semesters in college I spent worrying about how I wanted to become a successful business owner and reprimanding myself for not being anywhere near that vision. The result was me passing on all the experiences I could have had by getting more involved with school organizations, socializing more with students, and actually learning the material that was taught in my classes. I was fixated on the idea that school was something that I had to escape in order to find freedom and peace, but what I couldn't see was that this fixation was preventing me from having just that.
My time spent studying abroad was about 20% of my college experience, and I credited that time for 90% of all the growth and enjoyment during those 4 years. The thought of worrying about the future rarely crossed my mind during these periods. All that I was worried about was learning more about the things I came across in everyday life. Every time I made a new local friend, I would be focused on all the questions I had for them. When I came across a dish I didn't recognize I was completely engulfed in the experience of taking in the ambiance of the restaurant, watching the cooks prepare my food (when I could), and when the meal was finally ready for me to devour, consciously taking every bite to see what foods from home I could compare it to. During these times, I did my best to get the most out of every day because I knew it would all come to an end soon. Through the course of every study abroad, I would grow more and more into somebody who I wanted to live life as, and it would all happen without me trying to do so.
The difference between the time I spent abroad and the time I spent at my home university was in my acceptance of where I was during those periods of my life. When I studied abroad I knew that I still wanted to build a successful business one day, but I chose not to worry about when it would happen because I was living my everyday life through the lens of curiosity. This was a perspective that was available to me back at home too, but at the time I did not understand this. I think I had to live through both experiences to grasp this concept. After all, time is only wasted when living an unexamined life.