I paid for the last hot dog, but the guy behind the counter handed it to a stranger. After standing in line for most of the second half of the Washington vs Eagles game, I wasn’t at the top of my “be-friendly” game. So when the hot dog guy handed the girl next to me my hot dog, my first thought was there was no way the cashier would figure out the refund. And before I could have a second thought, the girl was handing me the hot dog. At first, I said no, I couldn’t take it, but then she insisted, and I figured I’d paid for it and she hadn’t, so I took it.
Fifteen minutes later, as I watched the Washington Team secure their loss, it occurred to me I could have just let her keep the last hot dog. That’s the person I want to be, the one who knows in a split second who she is and what she would do in that moment. But that’s not who I am right now. Right now I react. I miss opportunities. I’m not present. Instead, I’m in my head, dreaming up stories and missing the point.
Now, I might analyze this far too much, but stay with me.
It’s good to know where you’re going and think about the future—to dream big dreams, plan, hope, and work toward building a life. And it’s also healthy to know where you’ve been and understand how your past has shaped you. Both are important; however, it seems like the most imperative place to be isn’t thinking about the future or ruminating about the past. It’s living in the present.
When I first started writing, I thought a lot about the future and my writing dreams. I set goals and pictured myself as a full-time author. Then one day, I realized I had missed something. Instead of working to write better, I had wasted a lot of time on the dream. I went to a conference every year and piddled at my stories and dreamed these big dreams. But the reality was my present world was more about the dream than the actual story. I almost quit when I realized this. I wasn’t a writer—I was a poser.
Instead of quitting, though, I started studying, reading about the writing craft, reading novels by successful authors, and practicing my stories. Eventually, I paid for more classes, went to more conferences, and got a writing mentor. And I’m still in that present reality, but now those dreams I had aren’t as far off.
There is a value in thoroughly living each moment we’re given. It goes beyond YOLO and carpe diem. It’s carpe momentum. Seize each second. Live every moment on purpose.
I’m still learning this. I’m the world’s worst for daydreaming, for missing social cues, and for expecting the moments to be interesting and fun and then being disappointed when they’re not. And I’ve decided it’s got to stop. I need to listen better, notice when someone around me needs help (or a hot dog), and get in the trenches to do the work to get to the place I want to be.
So this year’s word of the year is PRESENT.
I want to live in the present. I want to recognize God is present with me and live like I believe that, and I want to embrace my moments in a way I never have before.
That’s my word for the year. What’s yours?