In 2021, I’m going to turn 18.
18 years of my life over (20% of my life, not factoring advancements in human longevity in), just like that.
A lot of my 2020 was spent thinking about optimizing for the future. College applications. Test scores. Scholarships. Grades. I wasn’t particularly good at enjoying the journey along the way. I was always looking to the next deadline or the next milestone, whether it had to do with a scholarship, research competition, or school.
After each deadline, there was either good or bad news. With the good news, I grew ecstatic for a minute, and with the bad news, I grew frustrated. I noticed, however, that within a few minutes after whatever event, the subjectivity ended. What I thought about the event didn’t matter anymore. Instead, I regressed back to my baseline levels of contentment. I might as well have been dreaming about the good or the bad, as my contentment from before and after seemed to be the same.
Spending the majority of my time anticipating events after which you’re going to remain as happy as you were before makes absolutely no sense.
You think you’re going to be happier only if this happens or if that happens. But you have to convince yourself it’s wrong. Maybe the only way to convince ourselves that we’re wrong is to see multiple ups and downs and no effect on our overall contentment.
I’m really happy with how I’ve developed my stoicism from the past year. Obviously, the magnitude of the “negative” events I’ve faced is minuscule compared to what others around the world have faced this year, but I know that more than a year ago, I would probably be devastated for at least a few days at a bad grade or the loss of an internship opportunity. This year, I regressed in hours. But even if it took me days to recover or de-excite myself after an event, I know that ultimately, things would come back to normal.
In 2021, I want to explore what it means to live life in the present. Right now, I’m looking into different forms of meditation–and I’m trying to go without audio. I might try and focus on a water faucet in front of me or a leaf far in the distance.
I’m going to end this reflection with a quote from Marcus Aurelius’s meditations that’s been on my mind since I read it in April 2020.
“The present moment is the only thing of which anyone can be deprived, at least if this is the only thing he has and he cannot lose what he has not got.”