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Live like there is no future tense

“Live your life like there is no future tense.”

This admonition was shared during one of my literature classes. We were discussing the notion that certain languages, like Japanese, do not have a future tense, and how that limitation affects people’s lives.

I can hardly wrap my head around that idea. No future tense? No, “I will,” or “I’ll be”? How can people live that way?

As college students, everything we’re doing is preparation for some storied future we’ve planned out meticulously.

We’re told at 18 years old that we need to have a plan for the rest of our lives, and that we need to follow that plan accordingly.

You need to do “x” so that one day you can have “y.” That way you’ll eventually be “z.” Plug in whatever variables you like, but the prescribed solution remains the same.

Graphic: MCT
Graphic: MCT

I am gaining an education and investing time to learn marketable skills to prepare for my future. Every day I think about what the future may bring and I make plans. I have always loved planning.

This concept of living in the present, rather than using the present to prepare for the future, makes me wonder what I would change if I wasn’t so fixated on what will come.

The questions were endless:

Would I continue studying the same subjects? Would I even attend college? Would I switch jobs? Would I spend more or less time with friends and family? How would I spend my free time if I was more focused on the present? Would I have more free time in the first place?

Most importantly, would I be any happier living my life in those different ways?

To be honest, I don’t think I’d make any massive changes. Even if I never use my degree, I’ve gained joy and satisfaction from my education. I don’t think I’d change my jobs, but perhaps I would approach them differently. I think I would have less anxiety about failing or messing something up.

If I spend less time worrying about the future, I’ll have a lot less anxiety. I spend a lot of time worrying how things will work out for my future self. I worry about jobs, school, finding a job after school and all the other things that haven’t happened yet.

If I focused more on what is happening in the present, and took more time to enjoy each moment, I wouldn’t worry about the rest.

I am glad for past choices I’ve made, and choices I make in the every day present. I have no regrets about how I am living my life, and I am comforted knowing that even if “happily ever after” never comes, I am living happily here and now.

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