On Not Living In the Moment


This past weekend, my alma mater Illinois State played North Dakota State in the Football Championship Subdivision title game here in the Dallas area. It was the first ISU football game I have attended in 24 years.

Twenty four years. gulp

And that wasn’t even the bit that caused a whole lot of contemplation and reflection over the past week.  Neither was the heartbreaking “they’re-gonna-pull-it-off-in-the-last-31-seconds” ending against a team that has made it to this same playoff game for the fourth year running.

No. What hit me was the regret of how I’ve never felt ties to ISU like my husband has from his time at University of Virginia. You see, as a freshman, I attended Southern Illinois University, partly because they had a program that I was interested in, and partly because my parents said I had to attend an in-state school – and SIU was as far from the Chicago area as you could get.

A truly mature reason to pick a school, but I loved it. The weather, the friendly outdoor environment. Unfortunately, as I’ve written about earlier, indirectly, I ended up changing my major from Art to Finance – not because of a love of finance, but because I felt the need to do something that would be more practical, and at the time most Marketing majors ended up in sales – and I was far too awkwardly self-conscious to be in sales.

My practical side and my artistic side have ALWAYS been in great conflict.

And then the college of business (briefly) lost its accreditation, and as SIU already had the image of a party school, I panicked, and transferred my junior year. And, to be fair, I had some personal turmoil going on with the program – not really realizing at the time that the problem was my choice of major not being a good fit versus the quality of the program – as well as having some really weird roommates that fall semester (the friends I had rented the house with had to sublet for the fall semester, and they did…to guys) and so I think I used the accreditation problem as an excuse to run away.

When I got to my new school, it was an awkward transfer. Technically, it wasn’t even my first choice – it was my backup plan in case my student loan for Arizona State didn’t come through (which it did – two weeks into my the start of the spring semester – at ISU).  Since I didn’t really know anyone, I moved into a dorm with the hopes of meeting people – and I did, but they were mostly freshman who were hoping I was old enough to buy them beer. (I wasn’t.) The practical, planner side of me decided I needed to put my shoulder to the grindstone and do everything I needed to do to get a job at graduation: I worked, I did an internship, I joined campus groups…

…and because of all my planning, my focus was on the future, and not the present.

Big. Mistake.

I really missed out on a lot of what college is about, outside of the classroom learning, which I endured. I couldn’t tell you the last names of any of my roommates while there, unlike my SIU roommates. I was more in the moment at SIU. At ISU, I thought I needed to get serious about things.

I was looking ahead. Everything I did was geared about the “when I graduate” and “when I get a job” and I honestly don’t remember much about the in-between, other than the party we had where I split my head open on the light in our kitchen and ended up in the ER.

Mostly, it occurred to me that I still do this, far, far too much. My husband will tell you that I am a great planner, and will head in to a new situation fully armed with details that will help make a trip or a move easier. Which IS helpful.


The obsessive side that pops up when I go into uber-planning mode…well, it becomes all-consuming. And I can lose hours or more in that same planning process.

I’ve also found that I tend to look back on my college experience with a mixture of nostalgia and regrets, and those dangerous words “if only”.

If only” I had stuck to my guns and stayed with the major I wanted to study (graphic design, which in 1986 was in its infancy, really) instead of caving to practicality and the dire words of the Dean of the College of Art “it’s impractical” (which I bet she no longer says).

If only” I could have ignored the bad teacher I had, the one who made me feel that I couldn’t be a true artist because I was middle class and “hadn’t suffered”.

If only” I hadn’t worried so much about the future and just lived.

(And, fact: It took me six months to get a job after graduation, so all those well-laid plans? Yeah, not so helpful.)

The words “if only” are probably the two most dangerous words in the English language.

If I had gone to my dream school to study art, I’d be in an entirely different place.

I likely wouldn’t be married to my wonderful husband. I wouldn’t have THESE two wonderfully crazy-making loving kids. I wouldn’t have had all the amazing experiences I’ve had so far.

And really, I’m happy with where I am today.

Part of living up to my one word “Thrive” is growing deeper relationships as well as taking care of myself – and that only happens by sticking in the moment as best as I can.


In the meantime, I’m choosing to reflect on my college years and dig up happy memories to replace any lingering regrets I have.  And maybe eat a cookie anyway.


  1. And maybe when Sam is in a soccer team, Maddie has a new dance school, curtains are up and you can get your car in the garage, you can have a little now for you.

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