Once Upon a Time Syndrome

Rainbow Castle

The best castle anywhere… ever.

There was probably a time in your past that you fantasized about being exactly where you are now.  Isn’t that strange?  At least in the West, us human beings have a bad habit of spending a lot of time focused on our future and our past, and not nearly enough time just enjoying the present.  The thing is, the future never looks exactly like you planned, and the past is unreachable and, as a result, we often romanticize it.

Stop and think for a moment, can you remember a time in your past that you wanted to be where you are today?  Maybe when you couldn’t wait to `grow up,’ or you couldn’t wait to be done with school, or you couldn’t wait until you got your first job, got married, or bought a house.

Think about that.  As children we are much better at living in the moment, and yet we still spend some of our precious youth fantasizing about how great it will be when we’re older.   This happens, even though life is as simple and enjoyable as a child as it ever will be.  And now you’re all grown up (presumably) and have some or all of those things you wanted, and what are you doing?  Are you living in the present and enjoying your accomplishments?

The sad reality is that you probably aren’t.  You’ve moved on to bigger and better goals.  Now you are looking forward to that new car, or a bigger house, or enough money to retire.

Most of us have a tendency to think that the present is somehow lacking.  Maybe we thought we would be more appreciated, or more successful, or thought we would be married by now. This made-up deficiency in the present makes us want to look to the future and/or past to imagine a more perfect life.  I call this “Once Upon a Time Syndrome.”

Living life is a lot like hiking up a mountain.  When you’re hiking, it’s easy to always be thinking about the trail ahead.  Wondering what beautiful sights you’ll see and thinking about reaching the top of the mountain.

But, as any hiker will tell you, the hike isn’t about reaching the top.  It’s about being out in nature and enjoying your healthy and able body.  While some sights are certainly more scenic than others, every single step on the trail corresponds to a unique and beautiful landscape that should be enjoyed as you pass through it.  Such is life.

Every moment in our lives holds a beauty that, because of our constantly changing perspective,  we will never experience again.  Let that sink in for a second.  Maybe read that first sentence again.  This post is your friendly neighborhood reminder to snap back to the present and appreciate your present life for what it is.  Is it ideal?  Probably not.  But is it awesome?  Probably so.

And even if life is really hard for you right now, that’s OK too.  Just be present and really experience everything that is happening.  As the comedian Louis CK says, “you’re lucky to live sad moments.”  Here’s the clip.  The whole thing is really good, but if you don’t want to watch it all, just start at the 3:45 mark. (language NSFW)

Don’t get caught up in the Disney version of your life that’s in your head.  You only get so much time on spaceship Earth.  You may not have the life you always envisioned, but you DO have a life.  Try to really experience and enjoy every moment of it.


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