I think we’ve all heard it said, at least once in our lives, that we’ve got to get the most out of every moment. We are encouraged, if not completely threatened, to live life to the fullest every single day. And although these messages are innocent enough on the outside, they apply some serious pressure to the conscientious people who hear them.
For the most part, I was one of those people who hopped out of bed in the morning excited and ready to go, eager to make the most of every day. My friends can attest to my annoying habit of being the first one up at sleepovers, and my sister dubbed me a “cancerous ray of sunshine” because of my energy at what seemed to be unholy hours of the morning. Yet this anthem thrummed through my brain: get up, get going, make the most out of your day.
When I started college, I entered into a difficult phase of my life where I was torn between feeling eager to do what I had done all through high school, and throwing it all out the window, for several reasons. The first was that I was rejected from the college of my choice and had to go to another school for a short period of time before I could transfer, and being there made me resentful. I felt like I was in an irritatingly long waiting period, and the time I was to spend there was already wasted. When I was able to transfer to my choice school, I felt renewed in my endeavor to enjoy every moment.
My New Year’s resolution of that year was this: Say Yes. I wanted to say yes to every new opportunity that came my way; to anything which opened new doors. Something unexpected? Yes. Something scary? Yes. Something I could never see myself doing in a thousand years? Yes, yes, yes. I wanted to exploit all my talents and ambitions, to truly make the most of the time ahead of me. Here’s what happened:
Every. Single. Time.
I auditioned for the piano department, and was rejected. I auditioned for the marching band (one of the most prestigious ones in the country) and was rejected. Being a creative arts major, I was required to present creative work in almost all of my classes, every week, to be critiqued by my teacher and my classmates. Usually, the feedback was pretty negative. My grades began to fall. My guinea pig died. I was approached by a man on the street who wanted to take my wallet and phone (he didn’t, and the cops were able to sort it all out). Things were going from bad to worse, and every unimaginable thing, every thing I’d told myself would never happen to me had started to happen, everywhere, all at once.
Everywhere I turned, I was told, in some way or another, that I wasn’t smart. I wasn’t talented. I wasn’t pretty. I wasn’t wanted. I needed to go home and stay there, because the world was too big for me and all my dreams were naïve and idiotic. In short, I began to believe that I wasn’t good enough, and that all my hopes were lies. I lost sight of every thing that I had believed in, and soon, it became true that the only thing I lived for was the weekend, when I could go home to my parents and pretend that my other life in the big city didn’t exist.
I read on the internet that you shouldn’t live for the weekend. You should make the most of each moment. I tried that, I protested, angrily, and feeling a bit guilty, because I’d thought I’d had an indomitable spirit, and it turned out to be made of oatmeal rather than iron. I tried that, and all it got me was pain and rejection.
But I couldn’t help feeling like I was doing something wrong. Never mind that I was wearing myself out, trying everything I could, ‘making the most’ out of my rotten experiences. Never mind that I was beginning to hate my life, and all I could feel was dread every time someone mentioned ‘school’ or ‘class’. And then, it hit me.
What if we’re thinking about this all wrong?
I am currently in my second semester at this university, and it has recently dawned on me that there is absolutely no problem in existing solely for Saturday mornings. Working two jobs and taking 15+ credit hours, life is exhausting. It’s hard to get the most out of things when those things kind of suck. It’s also hard to enjoy every second when you’re dead-tired. Sometimes, the best part of the day is the part when you get to crawl back into the bed you forgot to make because you missed your alarm that morning, and then you close your eyes and fall instantly to sleep. Sometimes, you live for your Starbucks drinks (which you promise you will only buy on Fridays after work, although you don’t always keep this promise, depending on the day) and those few, brief mornings where you wake up to a quiet neighborhood, and not to a noisy street in a city that never seems to rest. And while I used to feel guilty for that, I don’t anymore. Here’s why.
It’s because this isn’t permanent.
We all go through difficult phases. We all fall on tough times. Right now, the days where I feel truly happy and encouraged about my life are few and far between. Most days end in tears of frustration and fatigue. The best moments of my life, at present, are the ones where I’m not at school. Yet looking forward to them helps me get through my week. They help me go to work and stay through the whole shift (yes, the whole thing). They help me get up at 5:30 in the morning and do my yoga and Bible Study and homework, no matter how much sleep I got the night before. They help me follow through on my commitments, and not fulfill the promise I made to my parents, which is that any day now I’m going to quit my jobs and drop out of school. And most of all, they give me hope.
I want to emphasize that: Hope. The weekends give me hope. Why? Because they are proof that this isn’t permanent.
There will be better days. There will be days when I won’t fail, and I won’t be rejected, and I won’t dread getting up in the morning. Right now, those days are Saturday and Sunday. Maybe someday, they will include Monday (yes, even Monday), Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. Things change every single day. And if the weekend is the only thing that keeps me from giving up on the week days, then so be it.
Now, I’m not saying that you should just throw away the week and trudge through it as though it doesn’t matter. There is merit in trying to eke out the most of all the precious time we are given. But if you can’t, if you’re in a place right now where all you have to look forward to is the weekend, or your nightly sleep, or your end-of-the-week Starbucks, don’t feel guilty. We are human. Sometimes the only way to get through the worst days are to keep our eyes fixed on the better ones.