Waiting for Hurricane Sandy reminds me of my childhood. As I scroll through my Facebook news feed looking at status updates from friends by the beach talking about cancelled classes, I’m impatiently waiting for classes to be cancelled on Monday for us too.
When I was in high school, I would sit by my window waiting for the imminent snow storm while staying up late, procrastinating because I just knew school would be cancelled the next day. Then I’d wake up early the next morning and lay in bed for a couple minutes as I listened to my dad watch the news. 10 minutes would go by and my mom would come into my room and say one of two things: “NO SCHOOL! GO BACK TO SLEEP” or “WAKE UP! TIME FOR SCHOOL.” Then I’d either sleep half the day away or get up, panic about unfinished homework, and walk to school, thinking about the day up ahead full of whining from teachers and students alike.
Is this what life is about? Living from snow day to snow day? Instead of focusing on the here and now?
Today was my father’s 60th birthday party. 60 years. It’s unbelievable. In Indian culture, 60 years is considered the rebirth of a human being, so I guess my dad is turning 1.
The whole day was spent recognizing all of my father’s many accomplishments. My dad came to this country in 1975 with 500 rupees in his pocket, some lentil packets in his suitcase, made $250 per month as a chicken farmer to save enough money to bring my mom to the states. $250 sounds so little these days, but their apartment rent was $25 and gas was $0.45. Still, he had to work extremely hard to get to where he is now. He now has his own company while working an extraordinary job, all while raising two incredible daughters with all the love a father could give.
He is living the American Dream.
My father still has many years to live and these will be the most relaxing and amazing years of his life. But, the entire day was spent in the past.
Life is right here, right now, and yet we are always trying to focus on the past or future. Whether it’s looking back at our successes or looking forward to missing a day of school, time is spent elsewhere instead of simply doing our homework. Then the second we realize the future we were looking forward to is here, we roll over and go back to sleep. The time we would have spent here and now is wasted.
Imagine what life would be like if everyone was present 100% of the time. Diplomats wouldn’t argue over petty issues because they wouldn’t be looking at wars past. Heartbreak wouldn’t be so bad because you wouldn’t focus on what was and what could have been. Politicians would have a fair debate because we wouldn’t waste time looking at their track record and, instead, focus on their individual strengths and weaknesses.
We would actually live life; not just look at it.
Of course it’s important to look to the past, to learn from our mistakes, and look to the future, to work towards our goals.
But when most of life’s precious time is spent looking back or forward, when do we ever stop to look around?
The only time I remember being present is when the teacher was taking roll in 3rd grade. And even that was in between my staring across the room at Alan Stevens and imaging him as my future boyfriend.
Have you ever gotten into a staring contest with a cat? They always win. Their sense of here and now is impeccable.
But I guess we’d all be like that if we slept 17 hours a day.