Most people have seen the scene from Adam Sandler's movie Billy Madison where Billy comes back to the elementary school and tells the third grade kids how "great" high school is. "Gee," announces one of the third graders, "I can't wait to get to high school." Billy's face turns serious and he grabs the pudgy kid's cheeks and shakes him repeatedly while telling him "Don't you say that. Don't you ever say that. Stay here. Stay here as long as you can. For the love of God, cherish it. You gotta cherish it." (If you haven't seen the movie, or you are like me and still laugh every time you see it, see the clip below)
We've all been there. "I can't wait for vacation to get here." "I can't wait until the weekend." "I can't wait to grow up." Too often, SVC alumni read on social media sites or hear current Saint Vincent students exclaim "I can't wait to finish finals and be done with the semester," or "I can't wait for my senior year to get here," or "I can't wait to graduate." To these naive students, the response from the alumni is always the same: "Cherish it! Stay as long as you can!!"
What happens in those moments where we find ourselves wishing for something else? Sadly, far too often those become the moments that we wish we could have back. Personally, I know that if the 24 year old Aaron could go back in time and have a conversation with the college freshman Aaron, it would go something like this:
24 Yr Old Aaron: "Campus ministry trip to Italy. Why aren't you going?"
College Freshman Aaron: "I dunno, it's kind of a long trip and a big commitment and kinda inconvenient. Plus I can't wait to just have my summer off."
"Man up. it'll be one of your biggest college regrets. You signed up for the spring break service trip right?"
"Are you kidding? And give up my spring break when I get to go home and lounge around for the week?"
"What about the trip to Alaska?"
"Pull yourself together bro. You're really missing out on these opportunities."
"I did take a two hour nap today, so that's something."
"But for real, get out of your room, go meet people, and leave that comfort zone. Don't go wishing these next four years away or sit and watch them go by without doing anything."
I'm not telling you that I live everyday in the past and that I still live my life as though I were still a college student. Nor am I saying that there weren't times that I couldn't wait to be done. My senior thesis - a long, in depth project with countless hours of research and meticulous planning. My 25 page biochemistry final - one of the toughest exams that I've ever taken. Staying up all night sitting with one of the residents in my hall who had too much to drink and waiting for the ambulance to come - knowing full well that I had an exam the next morning. But it was living through those moments (and each one of the countless others in my SVC career) that taught me an important lesson. Researching, computing, and presenting my senior thesis prepared me to approach, manage, complete, and present projects that are assigned to me today at UPMC. The biochemistry final taught me that you can never be too prepared or know the material given to you by your professor (or your boss) too well. And sitting with that student all night gave me confidence to handle situations that I would otherwise avoid as well as the ability to think quickly on my feet.
There is nothing wrong with being excited for a big event. Especially the events that break the "mundane" of your daily living, such as vacations, weekends, or graduating and moving forward to the next big step in your life. But remember that every moment is unique; there is nothing that you can do to truly relive or retrieve the moments that together, define the person that you are. What we can do is take a step back from our constantly busy lives and appreciate what we have right in front of us in that particular moment. Trust me, the you a few years down the road will be happy that you did.