Growing up, I had a general timeline in mind – a vision of what I assumed my life would look like as I aged and how I would feel over the course of the years. I imagined going to college, meeting life-long friends and making memories, working my dream job, falling in love with “The One,” and eventually having a family. I thought that this would all happen in an orderly manner, similar to the predictability of a Disney movie storyline.
As a teenager, I reasoned that an event would occur, such as going to college, which would effectively signal the start of my personal Disney storyline. I recall being in high school and seeing college kids who had returned home for the holidays. They seemed so much older and wiser. However, when I went off to college, I pretty much felt the same as I had in high school. Since college didn’t seem to be the event that triggered the start of my timeline, I suspected that graduation would signal the start of my Disney story. Again, I didn’t feel much difference having earned a bachelor’s degree and I certainly didn’t feel like I was following my timeline.
Shortly thereafter, I was reflecting on the numerous events that had taken place in my life that I had not envisioned as part of my timeline and I realized that while I was waiting for my storyline to begin, my life was already happening. My timeline had begun a long time ago, but I’d had difficulty recognizing this because my life wasn’t exactly how I’d envisioned it would be. With this new understanding, I was able let go of my preexisting timeline and I became much more accepting of the path that my life had taken. I had been so preoccupied by the milestones on my timeline that had yet to occur that I’d completely disregarded the events that had happened, such as going to college. Since I spent so much time waiting for my timeline to begin and a lot of time thinking about what hadn’t happened, I wasn’t focused on what was currently going on in my life. I’ve found that focusing on and staying present takes practice.
With the beginning of a new year, I encourage you to reflect back on all that’s taken place during the prior twelve months. Note the twists and turns that veered far from the familiarity and safety of any preexisting timeline. Think about events that did not meet your expectations. Without judging yourself and your decisions, contemplate what you might have done differently. Then, let stressful incidents melt into your memory and appreciate each as a learning experience. Try, also, to let go of any preconceived notions for the New Year. Instead of dwelling on the past or waiting for the future, focus on appreciating where you are currently. This will allow for greater understanding and acceptance of where your unique path has brought you up to this very point in time.
Katherine Anson, MA, LPC