Master Oogway once said, “You are too concerned for what was and what will be. Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, but today is a gift. That is why it is called the present.”
I have no idea if anyone has used this for a senior speech yet, and makes total sense if someone already has. It’s a quote that hits really close to home. It’s a quote that has resonated with me more and more over the past few years, and especially in 2020.
I think it’s obvious that this year has been really terrible for all of us. The world feels like it's falling apart around me sometimes. Our country is divided more now than perhaps ever, a highly contagious disease has rampaged across our country for nearly a year now, and in my case, my stress about school only increased, especially given that I’m in my senior year. My productivity and motivation have pretty much fallen through the floor and probably pierced through the earth’s crust by now.
In the past year, the future loomed over me, casting a dark shadow that made me feel doubtful and depressed. My head was full of these thoughts: “Am I going to make it to college? Is there any point in trying to succeed when the world seems like it's falling apart every day? Will the last few years turn out to be a waste of time? Am I the waste of time?” For a few months I couldn’t bear the thought of it all being a waste. It overwhelmed me. I avoided my obligations because I felt that my own responsibilities were simply overshadowed by the change that needed to be made for our country. It felt like nothing was worth doing anymore, but at the same time, it felt like the need to do something was all I had.
For example, at the start of quarantine last year, I set a bunch of goals for myself because I thought I’d have more time to set myself up for success. And don’t get me wrong; I do have a lot more time. I just spent most of that time depressed and unable to get out of bed. For those who also set unreasonably high expectations for productivity, remember that this is and probably will be one of the most mentally and physically taxing points in our lives. It’s understandable to not be doing as well as you usually do, or to be having off-days perhaps every day.
Basically, there was a huge disconnect with my two beliefs: it felt like I was failing myself and others at every turn, but also that it was never worth caring for. I felt that, in the grand scheme of things, I didn’t matter, so there was no point in anything.
Now, you’re probably wondering how my own experience fits at all with my chosen quote. “You are too concerned for what was and what will be.” One might figure that it suggests that you shouldn’t care about “what was and what will be.” That it suggests to go with the flow of things, roll with the punches, submit to fate, however one prefers to see it. I’d beg to differ, though.
Yesterday is history. That is what you can’t control. What has happened has already happened, even if we don’t necessarily like what has happened.
And Tomorrow is a mystery. We don’t know what will happen. This world and this life doesn’t offer any absolutes. Nothing is set in stone. We could have days like yesterday, or we could have days that are completely different from it. We’ll never know.
But Today is a gift.
Today, we can choose how we react to the past.
Today, we can choose whether or not we will get up after we’re pushed down.
Today, we can choose whether or not we’ll let our wrong doings define us.
Today, we can choose whether or not we dwell on those who do wrong by us.
Today, we can choose whether or not the stress about problems in the world that we can’t control will interfere with what we can.
Today, we can change our future.
Today, we can change how we treat others.
Today, we can change how we treat ourselves.
The worries of yesterday and tomorrow may feel overwhelming, but we can’t forget how much power we have over today.