The concept of time is intriguing. We all have a past and we all have a future, yet we can only experience life in the present and that’s but a flash. The present was once the future and it will soon become the past.
How then do we seize the moment in order to create both happy memories and a bright future?
The past as a potentially negative aspect is comically illustrated in the 2004 film Napoleon Dynamite. Uncle Rico, a man in his 40s, continually talks about his high school football career, “back in ’82.”
Had his coach put him in as quarterback in the fourth quarter of a game, everything in his life would have been different, Uncle Rico laments. He’d have a professional football career, a luxurious lifestyle and a soulmate. Instead, he lives alone in a van, tormenting his nephew Napoleon and everyone he comes in contact with. He wants nothing more than to go back to ’82 and even invests in a time machine, which of course doesn’t work.
This isn’t to say that it’s wrong to think of the past. In fact, a happy memory really is a joy forever. We can look back on it and feel the same rush of positive emotions we experienced at that moment, and there’s no force on earth that can ever take this away from us.
It can hold us back to dwell on these thoughts as Uncle Rico does. But to cherish precious moments in gratitude certainly does wonders for the spirit.
When our memories are negative, we can also learn to take power over them, though we may need some help in figuring this out. It’s indeed possible to move painful memories to a place where they can no longer harm us. Even our past mistakes can be beneficial – if we’re resolved to learn from them.
There’s a beautiful saying that gives solid advice regarding the time continuum: “Remember yesterday. Dream tomorrow. Live today.”
How do we live today? Shouldn’t we be preparing for the future?
Yes, we need to be working toward our goals but we can’t allow worry about ‘what ifs’ to rob us of the joy of this moment.
Perhaps the best reconciliation between the future and the present is in a statement by writer and radio personality Earl Nightingale: “Success is the progressive realization of a worthy goal.”
In other words, in achieving our goals, we need to keep in mind that each moment we spend working toward them, we’re already successful. I often share with my Grade 8 students that they’re already achieving their seemingly distant goal of graduating from high school by showing up each day and doing their work.
How do we use the present to create both memories we’ll look back on fondly and a future where all is well? How do we make the best possible use of the now?
One way is to live principled lives in the present. By embracing honesty, integrity, respect, truth, courage, forgiveness, compassion, wisdom and love, we really can’t go wrong. By living this way, regardless of the challenges we face, we’ll experience peace and joy, knowing that we’re doing our very best.
Though we don’t know what the future will look like, we can be confident that it will be good. We’ll achieve our goals, or something even greater.
By living principled lives, we can also live without regrets. We can look back on our memories and say with confidence, “I did my best.”
Life is a beautiful journey when we remember to seize the moment. The past has made us who we are and the present enables us to shape the future.
Troy Media columnist Gerry Chidiac is an award-winning high school teacher specializing in languages, genocide studies and work with at-risk students.