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“I can’t wait.”
I cannot count the number of times I have said this phrase. “I can’t wait to graduate high school.” “I can’t wait to finally reach full recovery.” “I can’t wait for summer.” “I can’t wait to graduate college.” “I can’t wait to get a job.” “I can’t wait to start graduate school.” “I can’t wait to get married.”
I am currently on the crest of a summer which will include several weddings (including my brother and my best friend’s), my graduation from college, the start of my professional career, and my first major move. As I face this last month before summer, I am forced to re-examine the “I can’t wait” attitude and how it affects my sense of contentment.
In many ways, I am tempted to embrace the “I can’t wait” attitude more than ever.
More than once I’ve found myself saying something along the lines of “I can’t wait to be done with finals. I can’t wait to be done with papers. I can’t wait to graduate.” I’ve found myself thinking “I can’t wait to start my job, begin working on my graduate education, and have my own wedding.”
However, I am beginning to realize how harmful this attitude is. How many times over the past years of college have I been so caught up in waiting I fail to truly embrace the beauty of the present?
What if, instead of longing to rush this next month and graduate, I spent the next month embracing the friends, professors, experiences, and knowledge I have had the privilege of having here? What if instead of longing to begin my new job, I embrace my last few months before adulthood really kicks in? What if instead of wishing for marriage, I truly revel in the beauty of each stage of love?
For me, learning to step away from the “I can’t wait” attitude is critical to finding contentment, and contentment is critical to my mental health.
My recovery from depression had much to do with therapy and appropriate medication, but cultivating contentment played a major role as well. I encourage you to fight the “I can’t wait” attitude in your own life and begin fostering contentment.
One of the simplest ways to begin to cultivate an “I can wait” attitude is by filling up your life with beautiful things in the here and now.
It is so easy to become so focused on graduating. I allow myself to get bogged down studying or daydreaming about my life after graduation. Instead of spending quality time connecting and pouring ourselves into each other’s lives, my friends and I all too often end up talking about what we will do after graduation.
I am beginning to make an intentional effort to fill up my life with moments of true community and contentment here.
Instead of talking about graduating and complaining about finals, I am trying to plan times of prayer, playing games, and having encouraging talks. In doing so, I hope to enrich my in the here and now and keep me from obsessing about the future.
In addition, finding accountability among friends is very helpful. When you and your friends, romantic partners, and family members are committed to stepping away from an “I can’t wait” attitude, you can collectively steer your conversations towards topics of contentment and a more present focus.
Journaling also helps me to cultivate an attitude of contentment. In particular, keeping a gratitude journal each night helps me focus on the beauty of the present moment.
What about you? How much of your life you are devoting to “future activities” and how much you are devoting to the present? What is an area of your life where you are not finding contentment because you “can’t wait” for the next stage of life? What are some ways you can turn your focus to embracing the present moment?
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