After being out of America for more of 2013 than I was stateside, the jet lag/overall exhaustion I felt after arriving home left me to spend yet another day lying in bed, trying to see what “new releases” of movies I’d missed out on over the past 7 months. As I was searching around online, I stumbled across “About Time” with Rachel McAdams, who ends up dating a man who can time travel (no, not The Time Traveler’s Wife, oddly similar, but with a much happier ending.) By the end of the movie, *spoiler alert* the man ends up re-living everyday: the first time, feeling the weight of all of life’s stresses as we normally do, and the second, exactly the same as the first, but instead, cherishing every moment and focusing on the beauty in all of the little moments that surround us. Unfortunately for us, we normal-folk don’t have a redo of every day in our lives. Normally people say, live each moment like it’s your last. But what if we lived each moment like it was the second time? What would you take time to notice, appreciate, get excited by?
The message really hit me as I was coming off of this post-travel high and struggling to figure out how I was going to bring this zest and passion that I had for exploration while I was abroad, back to the frigid winter I would be spending studying my junior year in a library. And that’s when I realized, it’s all about time. And how you allocate it. In life, we get so caught up in the pressures of everyday that we get this sadistic joy in thinking we’re too busy for anything that might cause us happiness. As if somehow, the more stressed and worried we are, the more successful we’ve become. But the truth of the matter is, it’s not that we don’t have time to go see a movie, or we don’t have time to take that weird workout class you always wanted to try, or spend the night out in the city, it’s that you don’t think you deserve the privilege of making time for your happiness.
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Most people say studying abroad is pretty minimal on the “studying” part. And, for the most part, I definitely agree. The majority of your “education” while abroad takes place outside of the classroom. The classes you’re taking aren’t (and shouldn’t be) as rigorous as you’re taking back home. That’s not why you’re there. But weirdly enough, I’d say that studying abroad, while not actually spending all my time studying, helped my study habits immensely.
I learned how to allocate time and how to be 100% present for whatever I was doing. If I was choosing to stay in and study for that final, I was actually going to study for the final because I wanted to get out of my room as fast as possible. I wasn’t refreshing my newsfeed every five minutes and causing self-induced FOMO* of what I was missing; by actually doing my work, I avoided another night of making myself stay in to finish what I could have just done the first time around. And if I was going out, I wouldn’t think about the work I should have been doing because I would ruin the night worrying. If I was going to make the conscious decision to go salsa dancing instead of writing my paper, I was going to enjoy that salsa dancing gosh darnit, so at least that (maybe irresponsible) decision was worth the amazing night.
As humans we have a way of getting things done. Sure you may lose a few hours of sleep, but hey, at least you’ll have good memories to dream about. So I never once regretted my decisions. Because I was making the conscious decision to do whatever I was doing, to 100% be wherever I was in that moment.
Traveling brings out the best in people. You meet these people when you’re carefree, willing to explore, and the best version of yourself. Only when you travel do you put excitement in life first. Even your commute to work or school becomes exciting because you’re taking in all that that new city has to offer. I’m abroad, we have to live every minute of it! I’ll stay up all night out with my friends because I may never get a chance like this again! Traveling truly is life-changing. But you can’t let it just change your life while you’re away, because unless you get extremely lucky, traveling probably won’t be your entire life. You have to find out how to be happy, even when you’re surrounded by the normality of your everyday life at home.
When you’re home, you get the luxury of seeing everything for the second time. You’ve been here, you’ve lived it, so take the time to really look and appreciate the simplicities around you. Or treat your home like it’s an exotic getaway. See what Trip Advisor has to recommend in your local neighborhood, try a new restaurant, go rollerblading around your city, explore the nooks and crannies that are hidden behind your daily routine. When we’re in places we’re comfortable, we get complacent, we assume that it’s the place and the stress that leaves us going stir-crazy. But we all need to make time to go on adventures while we’re home too. Plan a day trip and make sure you go on it. Divide your time so that you really finish your work, your classes, your cooking, your cleaning, and can actually take the time to enjoy it. You have 24 hours in a day, everyday, for the rest of your life. Those hours could be spent in Spain, America, Thailand, Finland, anywhere. But regardless of where you are, the time is not the problem. The amount of time never changes. It’s how you change it. Whether you’re at home or halfway across the world in 2014, make time for your happiness.
*Top image: Schuyler riding a vespa on a date to brunch. Bottom image: with friends (Maria, Gina, Izzy) waking up for the sunrise in Tenerife, Canary Islands.