Editorial Notebook

Living in the moment

Editor contemplates the place for the past in our lives

There’s an old saying, “Live life in the moment.” I’m finding that as a first year here at RPI, the saying is quite true. Many people seem to mistake this meaning to say that we should live recklessly, as if every day was our last. I have come to the conclusion that this isn’t true. But let me step back and give some context for this—and talk about perspective.

As we get older, and time inevitably passes, we all experience a phenomenon known as “change in perspective.” This change happens many times in a person’s life, whether it be the step to middle school, graduating college, or retiring. We start to see things in a different light, often feeling embarrassed, or laughing at some of the actions we took in our younger days. It’s a beautiful thing—it’s what gains us wisdom, makes us better people, and it’s what makes life worth living.

To relate a personal anecdote, I know that my parents will be moving out of my home state soon, and although it may seem childish, I tend to think about my pre-college life and try to and theoretically fix old situations and see what I could have done to make my life better. But, as I approach the second half of my second semester here at RPI, I’m experiencing a perspective change—I’m starting to see the folly of my ways. It’s dawning upon me that the past is just that—past and gone.

This revelation leads me to the point of this notebook. It’s important to take the past in perspective. Sure, there are mistakes that you wish you could change—and there will always be decisions you regret. There will have been good and bad memories, but nostalgia can be just as much a curse as a blessing. Nostalgia exaggerates, encourages us to forget the lessons we learned and the mistakes we made in favor of the moments that brought us joy and happiness. But often, our mistakes mean far more than our successes. In essence it means that nostalgia can be detrimental to gaining perspective. If we don’t remember our mistakes, then we’re doomed to repeat them.

Likewise, focusing too much on our past mistakes prevents us from paying attention to the future. It also leads us to experience the pain of the past in the present—which we shouldn’t do. We can’t let past emotions stop us from living the best possible life in the present.

We need to live in the moment, not taking unnecessary risks, but focusing on the future. Carpe diem—seize the day. In conclusion, remembering the past is healthy, but dwelling on it will keep us there. Just as I need to embrace my life here in college, we all need to focus on the situation at hand, which will bring us better results in our endeavors. My message to you, the reader: gain the wisdom of your past experiences and apply it to your life, and then today, tomorrow, and forever on, you’ll be living life to the fullest.