“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing…” -Ecclesiastes 3:1-22
Seasons. Each season brings a different flavour and atmosphere to our life. Like seasons of the year, each season of life holds positives and negatives. The beauty of the colours and smells of autumn also contain a chill and darkened evenings. Summer provides hot sun and luscious greenery, but mosquitoes are also a reality. We must choose what we will dwell on. How can one enjoy skating in the winter when all they can think about is swimming in the summer? Lately, I have been reflecting on my first year of university at CMU and the way that I experienced that season of my life.
It was somewhat of a wild year. In April, I finished a very busy first year of pre-nursing studies. Like any full-time, first-year student, there was so much to juggle and constantly keep up with. Having homeschooled for my entire previous education, I found that I was continuously just trying to prove to myself that I could indeed succeed, pass exams, handle labs and attain the grades I wanted.
For both the fall and winter semesters, I lived and breathed being productive. There was always another assignment, lab report, exam and so on. Every available evening was spent studying until I sleepily packed lunch to take with me when I would wake early to bus to school in the morning. However, there was also a lot of positive and wonderful things that I experienced during this time. As the year went on I made close friends with whom I shared much laughter, tears, and inside jokes. I navigated new and exciting relationships. I have many memories of being exhausted and uncontrollably laughing when I wasn’t supposed to during Wednesday night chemistry labs.
During that season of life, however, I spent a lot of time focusing on everything I didn’t like about being busy with school. I felt over-stimulated, longing for the day of my last exam when I would finally be DONE with the studying and stress. I would repeatedly think, when I’m finally done this year and working a summer job, then I’ll truly be able to enjoy life. When I can finally spend my evenings the way I’d like to, I’ll feel balanced again. When I no longer have the stress of assignments, life will be much brighter and hopeful.
And now my summer is coming to an end. I’ve been working at my two part-time summer jobs, and I’ve had lots of free evenings with plenty of time to myself. Guess what? Even though I have enjoyed the freedom and joy of feeling less pressured, I’ve often had moments of experiencing boredom and a lack of meaning. Some days I have felt somewhat lonely and empty even though I have been able to see my friends often.
I have filled my extra hours with activities I enjoy such as gardening, playing guitar and reading. But I have still felt a bleak sense of aloneness. Instead of taking advantage of the rest and recuperation this season brings, I have found myself at times focusing on the parts I don’t like. I have caught myself thinking about future times that will finally “make me happy”. I’ve even started looking forward to the busyness of my second year of university.
Then the Holy Spirit gently reminds me about the beauty of living in the present moment. God is with us in the now. If we spend each season of life looking forward to the next, we completely miss out on the opportunity to embrace the gift of this moment, the beauty of now. When we choose to acknowledge the struggles of the seasons we’re in and embrace the joys, we can become aware of the signs of God’s presence that are only visible to one who is conscious of the present.
Here are three strategies that I’ve found helpful to living in the present, and I invite you to apply these to your daily life as you begin your year at CMU:
- Everyday, find at least three things that you are truly grateful to God for in this time of your life. This sounds quite cliché, but honestly, do it. Write them down or thank God for them out loud.
- When you catch yourself thinking ahead about a time you look forward to, acknowledge the thought and place it in God’s hands. Remind yourself to focus on what you’re experiencing right now.
- If you’re really struggling with the season of life you’re in, tell God. Tell him all the things you don’t like about it (he can take it!). But then thank him for what he’s doing in the situation, even if you don’t know what that is. Thank him for the good he’s going to make of the struggle.
As you enter in to this year of university, I invite you to embrace the present moment in this season of your life. This year may seem stressful and overwhelming, but I promise you there is much beauty to be experienced at this time in your life. This time of stress, hard work, and yet amazing community will never repeat itself in the same way.
Anna Richard is entering her second year of Pre-professional studies in Nursing at CMU.