Few things about sixth grade stand out as particularly memorable to me, but I do remember something my band director used to say to me when I meandered into his room complaining that I couldn’t wait for the day, the week, the year to end. He’d always say, “Don’t go wishing your life away.”
To say this made an impact on 12-year-old me would be a lie; however, nearly 20 now, I find myself thinking about it more. Right now, I’m living the life that 12-year-old me would have dreamed of: I’m a college student in a big city having a taste of independence at last. I’m finally getting a sense of where my passions lie and who I want to be.
But it’s strange to view my life this way after I’ve just spent the last week wishing for time to speed up. I find myself wishing for my birthday to come, for the holidays to come, for summer to come, for junior year to come and it never ends. I even spent most of July planning out my next few years at Hopkins — I redid my four-year plan several times, I researched study abroad opportunities and I considered clubs I wanted to join.
Planning ahead isn’t a bad thing, but I never find myself living in the present. Every day seems to consist of me sitting around rushing the clock. Time never seems like it’s moving fast enough.
I’ve always considered myself a highly impatient person. I find myself restless when I’ve stayed in one place for too long. I don’t like waiting for good things to happen, for bad things to be over and done with or for myself to change and figure out what exactly I want in life. I find the present dreary and mundane compared to the enthralling visions of the future I have in my head.
This is becoming increasingly more difficult to cope with, though. The incidents from sixth grade I just recalled occurred eight years ago, and it hardly feels like that long ago. It seems like I got my learner’s permit a few months ago, graduated high school a few days ago and started college just a few seconds ago. What else has rushed past me while I was blinking?
Even as I’m writing this, I’m thinking about the assignments I have to do as soon as I’ve finished. I’m thinking about what to make for dinner and where I should go this weekend and figuring out what clubs I’ll have time for and considering what my Halloween costume should be. I’m not thinking about how pretty the golden-hour view from my window is, or the way my bracelet is clacking against the edge of my desk while I type or the smell of the food my suite mate is cooking.
I spent so much of the pandemic feeling like I couldn’t breathe, trapped inside my room, my whole world on small, glowing screens, hardly seeing anyone, living in a town that has always made me feel so claustrophobic. That feeling in my chest hasn’t eased up since coming to Baltimore, which makes me realize it’s time to change something, now.
Tonight, once my homework is done, I’m going to stand on the sidewalk in Charles Village. I’m going to take a deep breath and watch the cars go by and the people strolling along to get to Barnes & Noble. I’m going to go into a restaurant and buy myself dinner, and while I’m waiting for my food, I’m going to take everything in.
I might be living the dream life of my pre-teen self, which is exactly why I feel obligated to appreciate it. There will be plenty of time in the future to declare a second major and join more clubs and do an internship and find a career. I can deal with those things later.
What I can’t do is be 19 again, exploring a brand-new city and enjoying freedom for the first time. This feeling of being young and new and full of drive and excitement will wear off, and I want to enjoy it while it lasts. Maybe the quotidian tasks of my present life are mundane, but I don’t want to look back one day and wish I’d done it differently. Living in the present might be hard, but contending with regret-tinged nostalgia would be harder.
Shelby York is a sophomore from Owenton, Ky. majoring in Writing Seminars. She is a copy reader for The News-Letter.