The air was cooling off from the stifling summer and it was quiet except for the distant sounds of traffic and children playing. The park was quite vast, perhaps the biggest one I’d been to. There were plenty of trees and gazebos for everyone, lots of green space for you to have a peaceful picnic. I had decided I loved this park despite the thirty-minute drive it took to get there from our houses.
I was at the park with my two friends, Krissi and Julie. We had gone on a whim and I had tagged along despite having a million other things I probably should have been doing. It was fine. I would figure it out later, I always did.
We sat on blankets and ate the snacks I’d crammed into a little tote bag. I’d taken my shoes off to let my feet touch the grass. Julie’s dog, Bailey a chunky and adoring beagle mix, sat with us and I gave her a kiss on the forehead. The sun peaked out from the clouds she had been hiding behind all day. This moment was beautiful, and I felt a sense of happiness that I hadn’t felt in weeks. Krissi was talking about something passionately and I was half listening, half zoning out to admire how good it felt to be out here. I started to realize that maybe this is what life is about, at least for me.
It may be cheesy to say “it’s the little things” but I forgot how often I overlooked opportunities for these small yet profound moments of joy. I needed to explore more of what those small moments were and could be for me.
I knew getting coffee and sitting in a coffee shop was an automatic one. Especially the cat café, because who doesn’t love drinking coffee in a room full of cats. Going to any metaphysical store or thrifting was always an adventure I was down for, though this happiness wasn’t as pure as the one in the park. Painting if I was in the mood to actually be good at it brought me a sense of accomplishment, but if it wasn’t going well it was actually one of the most unpeaceful activities I could be doing. Spending time with my friends was a given, but that kind of happiness I felt in the park only happened every once in a while, so I wasn’t sure. Spending time with my mom was also great, but it was rare I had that feeling as well. I started to wonder why it was only specific settings that I felt this way.
I realized it was because I had to let myself be in the moment. I was a worrier, I constantly stressed myself out about something. I was always thinking about the future and letting it fog up my mind when the future was so uncertain. Every plan I made had an accompanying list of all the things that could go wrong. I was one of those people who had to check under the bed and behind every door when they got home before I let myself settle. I was never in the moment, always planning for a future disaster.
If I ever needed proof that the future never turns out as planned, but usually works out okay, I should have just looked at my own life.
I was always that kid who planned their life to a T. At the age of fifteen I had decided I would go to Lindenwood, major in psychology, go to grad school, become a therapist, get married at twenty-four, have my first kid at twenty-six, the second at twenty-eight, and live in Oregon near my family.
It was a very rude awakening when I ended up going to community college first and changing my major four times. Not to mention moving cities every new school year.
Now I’m pretty sure I’m getting a bachelors in English and I’m going to do freelance work so I can travel around and be a spinster with Krissi, whose life has also gone off the rails.
The thought of getting married in four years is the most unappealing thing I can think of, which seventeen-year-old me would be heartbroken to know. The thought of having kids before I am at least thirty is terrifying now, much to my mother’s dismay.
Despite all this change from the plan I had wanted to adhere to so badly, I don’t think I would change anything. It got me to where I am today and though I may not be the happiest person, I am a lot happier than I would be as the person fifteen-year-old me had planned out.
I think that’s the beauty of your twenties, life will always be changing, you will be changing. Having an existential crisis every month is important life experience that I assume grows me into the person I’m supposed to be. Or perhaps the crisis never stops coming, and I slowly start to get better at handling them I’m not sure. I can’t be sure of anything besides what little things make me happy, even then I’m sure some of those will change and I have millions more unknown little moments ahead of me.
Now I just have to actually listen to my own advice and reflection. Stop worrying so much about what’s ahead and stop to smell the damn roses. Or get it through my head that making time to go to the park is so much more enjoyable than scrolling through my phone or oversleeping. My biggest complaint of adulting has been how busy life is. I wake up thirty minutes before class, go to class, come home and eat, feed my cat, then go to work, come home and stay up on my phone so the cycle can continue. I have allowed myself to become a cog in the machine. I have enabled my own misery. Which brings me to my third realization, no one’s coming to save you. No one else but me can make myself get up and seize the day. No one is going to change my life but me.
Life isn’t going to get better until I’m in the moment for the little things, accept that the only thing I can count on is change, and realize only I can control my own happiness.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: BRIELLE AMICK is a junior at Lindenwood University, majoring in creative writing. She is just beginning her career in writing and has so far only finished works of poetry. Her aspirations are to work in publishing, helping authors get their pieces out into the world. She is pushing herself to go outside of her comfort zone and submit work to publications to get a better understanding of the process from an author’s point of view.