A Plea to Let Us Live in the Now

Teens are constantly pressured to focus on their futures, but some of the most important years of their lives are happening right now.

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collage by Anna Parsons

Monumental time is ticking away as teenagers are forced to center their attention on their futures.

Like every high school junior planning on going to college, I picked a preferable date to take the SAT and set aside an expected 15 minutes to register for the test on the College Board’s website. That expected 15 minutes quickly turned into an agonizing 60 minutes. From the time I clicked the “Begin” button, I was bombarded with question after question about every aspect of my college life choices and even questions about my life after college, as if I knew exactly how to answer each of them with complete certainty. 

I felt mentally exhausted, as if I just planned out my entire future in one hour because the College Board required me to do so. I was left with overwhelming questions. How am I supposed to know what the rest of my life will look like at the age of sixteen? And why does everyone seem to expect me to know?

Societal traditions have developed the notion that by the time we reach our first year of adulthood, 18 years old, we should have all the answers to what our life will be. Teenagers are the subject of constant pressure to make all the right decisions in some of the most delicate years of their lives. It’s preached that one wrong move may destroy any chance at the future we aspire to. 

From picking a university that will further our education after high school to deciding on an occupation that we are supposed to hold for the rest of our lives, we, at such young ages, are pressured to look into the future.

Societal traditions have developed the notion that by the time we reach our first year of adulthood, 18 years old, we should have all the answers to what our life will be.”

 

However, the concept is quite contradictory. Everyone has heard at least one adult who is fully engrossed in their projected future state that they wish they could go back in time. That they wish they could live again in the “good old days” of their prime years. Compared to the future that they too were taught to focus on, the simpler times were much more enjoyable. 

So why does society persistently stress the future if, when that future comes, the wish to go back in time appears? The teenage years are arguably the best years of people’s lives, possibly the most important, too. 

Being too old to be considered a child and too young to be considered an adult is a difficult stage for teenagers. The five to six years of adolescence are a pivotal stretch in our development. So, why isn’t there a greater emphasis on living in the moment during this time?

First and foremost, the teenage years are the ones that allow us to grow into who we will be as adults. In order to even remotely move forward in life successfully, we must have a deep understanding of our own selves. If we are to be pressured into focusing on the future, there’s no time for us to sit down with ourselves and understand who we are. This is a path for disaster. 

Instead, society should encourage living in the moment and experiencing all that comes within those five to six years. By doing this, many individuals will have a greater comprehension of the person they are. And adulthood will ultimately become, for most, as bright as we hope for it to be. 

The clock is always ticking, and it will never stop. Enjoy the time that is present right now. ”

Not only is the development of our identities an important element of focusing on our teenage years, but so is the simple, pure enjoyment of being young. Making memories, laughing, learning, and experiencing life are what we will have to look back on. The clock is always ticking, and it will never stop. Enjoy the time that is present right now. 

The future is a daring concept, meaning people tend to put so much effort into perfecting their future by spending endless time preparing for it even though it’s not guaranteed. Think about that. It only takes one second for the future, which we so heavily idealize, to change. 

Of course, it’s important to strive to have a future worth living, but it can’t be the only thing we focus on. Making the absolute most of the seconds we have right now is the most important thing we can do. It’s also the only thing we have definite power over. 

If we are continuously looking into the next five, ten, or even fifteen years, before we know it, some of the most significant years of our lives will tick away. We’ll become those adults who yearn to experience their teen years again because they never took the time to enjoy them. Plan a future worth living, but don’t make it the main thought that permanently resides. 

So I issue my plea to society: Please let us live in the now.