When I look back at my college experience, I can’t think of many times where I was fully accepting and appreciating the present. I was often looking for ways to speed up each day, anxiously awaiting each break, and desiring the thought of walking across the stage and forgetting about college forever. Other times I was running on a seemingly never ending hamster wheel, replaying all my failures, and telling myself that the present and future wouldn’t be any better. I seldomly tuned into the present moment, and that is one of my biggest regrets in college to date.

Before I arrived at Worcester Polytechnic Institute’s campus, I was an eager high school senior feverishly checking my emails from WPI, daydreaming about studying in the middle of the Quad, and telling everyone who would listen why I thought WPI was a great school. When that long anticipated moment finally came, and I received my acceptance to WPI, I swore that I had experienced the best thing ever. However, when I found myself on WPI’s campus waiting to collect my room key in the summer of August 2018, I didn’t realize that I would develop a pattern of thinking that would significantly impact my college experience. 

Over time, everything changed. Somehow the present wasn’t enough. My tendency to always be waiting for the next change or milestone kicked into overdrive. In my mind, the campus wasn’t as pretty, the classes weren’t as exciting, and time couldn’t be over fast enough. With each day that passed, I was missing every moment: good, bad, small, and large. I was a half-interested spectator in my own life. 

When I think about this disconnect with the present I can attribute it to adversity, which was further exacerbated by the pandemic. Although I was fortunately able to experience a year and a half of a pre pandemic college experience, the remainder of it has seemed like a blur. Each changing season has felt like a slightly different copy of the previous month, with uncertainty increasing by the day. Each day was either spent wishing I could redo a day in my past, or prolonged daydreaming about how everything will be so perfect once college is over. 

Lately, I have been wishing that I could go back to 2018, sleep in my first dorm bed, retake one of the tests I failed, visit a different city with a group of friends, and renew a friendship that ended. Or, go back to 2019 to remember what was said in that 8 hour conversation. But, then I am reminded that I am not fully enjoying this present moment, as a senior in college, searching through job posts and trying to have a successful final semester in 2022.

I don’t want to always be in a cycle of living in the past and future, and then wishing I could go back and relive those times because I wasn’t fully in the moment to remember any experiences: positive or negative. Although the current circumstances may not be ideal for a typical college education, I encourage you to find ways to take in each day with a sense of appreciation and childlike wonder. 

Journaling helps me stay in the present moment. It’s a perfect sensory oriented screenshot of what’s happening at a specific moment. When you are doing things that are exciting or unpleasant, challenge yourself to avoid thinking about what you will do in a few hours, or a few years. Try not to think about anything but that moment. Try to capture the sounds, scents, sights, and people around you. Although you may think that some of these events are too small to fully remember, they won’t seem so small, when you rack your brain in an attempt to tell your future coworkers, peers, or children these memories that now mean so much to you.

For the majority of us, the past couple years of college have been tough. But, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you should rob yourself of the well-deserved memories and experiences from these formative years. The present is your best friend, and essentially the only thing that you can cling on to and know you have the power to change. Once your current present becomes your past, you don’t want to be left grieving those memories, aching for what time left behind, because you weren’t fully there to enjoy it.