How many times have you heard someone summoning you about the importance of “living in the present“, “stop fussing about the future“, and “being here NOW”?
How many times have you gone through a long list of reasons explaining you why living one day at a time will improve your life?
And how many times have you fiercely nodded (and then committed to apply those recommendations to your own life from that moment on)?
The incredible events we are witnessing since 2020 kicked in may let us believe that time has finally come. What a better occasion to implement those resolutions in our “new normal” where time has frozen?
Why does it sound not so cool though?
Living one day at a time vs. Enjoying one day at a time
I may look picky, but I believe there is a misconception about this phrase. The Cambridge Dictionary quotes: “Take it one day at a time: to deal with things as they happen, and not to make plans or to worry about the future.” Fair enough. However, do we really mean that when going through the nicely bulleted reason-why lists I have already mentioned? Of course not. I don’t know about you, but deciding not to worry for not worrying about the future makes me freak out.
What we really want is being able to enjoy every day, to live each day to its fullest, and to stop letting the days slip by the clog of our lives. This is why actually living day after day with no plans (lockdown anyone?) is awful.
That said, I am not against the concept itself. You know, I am a millennial, I belong to the YOLO generation! And no one thinks we should be able to take the most out of our days more than me, even when trapped in a quarantined life. However, we should really be careful what we wish for. It just might come true.
Lack of perspective
What will I do in two weeks’ time? Will we be able to travel again this summer? What about that project / trip / exam in one month from now? Those are some of the questions I keep hearing since the Coronavirus outbreak. No doubt we are all experiencing a time of deep uncertainty. But why so much impatience? Just live one day at time, the rest will come! Not really, is it?
The reason is simple: this approach lacks perspective. We miss the big picture. Our system of spatial and time coordinates falls apart and we are no longer able to fix deadlines, set up a budget, or look for a new job. In other words, our planning ability is restricted to 24 hour time frame. We just carry on with our day-to-day routines, in order to meet the most compelling requests, and then…wait. As a result, our days look all the same and we end up with a generalised lack of meaning. Not cool.
Suspension of dreams
Coronavirus put our dreams on hold and we cannot come to terms with that. Weddings have been cancelled, relocations postponed, graduations delayed. Hanging on while waiting for the day our long-awaited wishes come true is frustrating. In the best case scenario, we can assume it’s just a matter of time and we will finally get there. Otherwise, it will be a lost occasion. Either way, the bitterness we feel right now is not likely to fade overnight. And no, the fact of living in the moment, being here NOW doesn’t help. What is left when even dreams are neglected?
This crisis has shown us that being trapped in the present is not what we were expecting. Even worse: it’s not as fancy as we thought. However, “living from day to day” still remains a valuable concept for me. A world where people daydream about the future, or dwell on the past all day long is not a preferable option. We definitely need to stick to the present and make the most out of our days. Just keep in mind that even chocolate becomes disgusting when you have too much of it.