“Live for the Now!”: Reflections on Juggling the Past, Present, and Future

Timehop  is a fun way to  take a stroll  down  memory lane.

(For my readers out there who don’t know what TimeHop is (AKA  my parents), it is a feature on social media platforms that shows you everything you posted on that specific day over the years.)

Sometimes, the stroll is cool and calm as a warm breeze of nostalgia tingles my toes. Outcomes of dance competitions, trips  to the beach, getting my first college acceptance letter, traveling around Europe…  ahhh.. the good old days.

Most of the time, however, it’s a cringeworthy reminder of my tween/teenage awkwardness. Countless duckface photobooth selfies, angsty status updates along the lines of “the truth will win in the end,” and the incessant need to  inform the public that I was “hitting up  Sonic with the girls!” or “OMG I hate snow!”

I take a screenshot of the memory,  send it to the people involved  so we can share a moment of recollecting our youth (namely Amber Tacy), then immediately delete it so no future employers decide they don’t want to hire a girl who  posts about “picking up the squad in my swagger wagon!” (a termed coined by a Toyota commercial at the time and the unofficial name of the white mini van I drove.)

Last week, my timehop took me by surprise.

10  years ago on this day…

Had it really been 10 years since high school graduation?!

The shock wasn’t a, “Time sure does fly!”  sort of thing.  Rather, my reaction was, “how has it only been 10 years?!”

If I were to sit 18  year old Katie down and tell her about the decade ahead, she would skeptically take in the information, and then laugh at how outrageous it all sounded. I’m going to try to get two degrees in college? A professional dance career? Someone’s going to pay me to dress up like a hot dog, do kid’s hair and nails, and hand out fliers on the streets of NYC?  I’m going to get engaged to an Australian man and bop about Australia for 9 months?  She’d add in some sarcastic interjection along the lines of, “Yeah, I’ll probably fly to space too!” (Well 18 year old Katie… let me tell you about a man named Elon Musk… ps. buy Tesla stock)

Of course,  I’d warn her of the struggles, setbacks, and rock bottom moments. But 18 year old Katie would have believed that. Expect the worst, be pleasantly  surprised by the  best. I have the good old Askegaard realism. Or pessimism, depending on who you ask.

As I’ve been pondering how I managed to cram so much living into a measly 10 years, ideas about finding the balance between reflecting on the past, planning for the future, and living for the moment have been ticking through my brain.

18 year old Katie was chronically stressed about the future and spent too much time beating herself up the past. 28 year old Katie has been trying her hardest to adopt the ever so popular millennial mantra: “live in the now” in a desperate attempt to squeeze the most out of life.

I’ve arrived at three connecting conclusions after hours of pondering it all over:

  1. It’s important to remember and reflect on the past.

In today’s “now” culture, statements like  “If only I would have….”  Or “How could  I have been so  stupid!!” usually receive some sort of inspirational quote admonishing the foolish thoughts: “The past is in the past, the future is unknown, but the present is a gift!”

I call bullshit. Your own past is arguably one of the best teachers you could hope for. Pinpointing your successes and failures is essential for becoming a better human in the future.

Acknowledging the moments you did something stupid, made a massive blunder, or opened your mouth when you shouldn’t have is essential for ensuring you don’t make the same mistakes twice. Reminiscing about the wins, amazing experiences, and successes is the perfect way to know what will make you even happier in the future.

History will repeat itself if you allow it to. 

2. It’s important to think about the future.

“What happens if things don’t go well?!”  “What do I do if X happens instead of Y?”  The same living in the moment #trends apply to overthinking about the future,  “Stop worrying about the future! Enjoy the now!!!!”

I call bullshit once more. Thinking,  planning, and  worrying about the future is essential for creating a life you’re excited to live. Being ready for if and when things don’t go as planned is essential.

I’ve had some pretty cool experiences and opportunities over the past decade, and  “you’re so lucky!” has been thrown around, mostly from  myself. 3 years ago I stepped back, took a look at “Luck” and said, “Why the hell are you taking the credit for all my hard work?!? “

Landing dance contracts, getting cool side hustles, and having the financial means to travel have all taken an unbelievable amount of hard work, dedication, and sacrifice. I built incredible “nows” on the foundations of thinking ahead, intense planning, and having a plan D to fall back on when A-C went up in flames.

Forward thinking matters.

3.The value of compartmentalizing

The present day adult is constantly stressing the importance of  “living for the moment,” and  it’s because we are just so damn lousy at it. We spend far too much self shaming ourselves over past mistakes riddled with “shoulds” and “ifs” while obsessing over the outcome of the future.  Social media is one of the devious culprits to blame. Constantly scrolling past the projected lives of others creates an unbelievable amount of pressure to be successful, make change, be informed, and to do something meaningful.

Despite feeling guilty over what we haven’t done in the past and anxious about what we’re suppose to do in the future, we are able to rationally recognize we are shoving the present into the backseat.

The result? Preaching about “the now” and recognizing it’s importance without actually taking our own advice. 

It’s undoubtedly important to reflect on the past and to plan for the future, and over the past decade, I’ve realized the secret to ensuring neither mars the present:

The ability to compartmentalize.  

Compartmentalizing is a skill that’s proved useful time and time again since graduating college.

  • Taking on one assignment to make it through the 22 credit semesters.
  • Breaking down a show number by number in order to retain the choreography.
  • Dicing up a day by individual tasks rather than staring down a horrendously long to-do list.

The same approach can be taken to juggling the past, present, and future.

Set aside time to reflect on the past, set aside a different chunk of time to plan for the future, and don’t let either interfere with the present.

Writing has proved to be a successful way  for me to achieve this. Taking ideas, plans, goals, experiences,  successes, and failures out of my brain and onto my desktop  is a surprisingly effective way to sort through the maelstrom of thoughts in my head. Pressing save and hitting close means that it’s time  to get back to the present. Jeremy and I will also set aside time to talk through the different paths our lives could go down, which has been a healthy way to lessen the anxiety of the unknown.

It’s easier for me to compartmentalize the past than the future, but perhaps 38 year old Katie will be a bit better about it….

Here’s the Thing…

No matter how much we learn from the past, we will still make mistakes in the future. And no matter how much we prepare for the future, plans still won’t go as expected.

Life has a funny way of taking us to unexpected places and through an infinite number of incredible “nows” if we allow it to.

From collecting my high school diploma to now, I’ve been on quite a wild ride. I’ve leaned valuable lessons over the past decade, I’m planning for another decade of experiences to come, all while being able to embrace my now.

What will 38 year old Katie have to think about all of this? I’m just as curious as you…

4 Comments Add yours

  1. lol i hadnt heard of Time Hop either! Sounds like an episode of the original Star Trek! Always thoughtful and insightful Katie!


    1. Hahaha maybe in the future it’ll be an app that let’s us hop through space 🙂


  2. Lookoom says:

    Well written and more profound than it sounds. By the way, what stocks should I buy now?


    1. That’s a great question! If you find out, let me know 🙂


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