On Being Present

It’s the start of the semester and I am already a playlist on shuffle, with my heart not exactly in my schoolwork but my feet still constantly running, running, running. I’ve also been hell bent on spending more time with people if I can, having lengthy conversations if possible and striving to know just one more fact about someone while there’s still time. As silly as it sounds, I want to hinge much of my energy this semester on being present.

After a ferocious semester of overloading, the dust hasnt quite settled yet and I’m still somewhat ruffled, with the notion that hard work isnt everything. That I need some slack too. Again, there is a season for fighting, a season for putting your weapons down. I need more time to think about what I really want to do, and though I know that I’m saying this from a privileged position, I can’t help but find a simpler way to tide over my current semester. And so I’m on the brink of making some decisions, whether I should soldier on with the same old tough combinations in the new year, or make a few changes and suscribe to a less demanding module, or at least modules that train different faculties of thought (the politically correct definition of things can always be found if you try hard enough).

Running, yes! I’m excited to say that I’m the captain for my college’s Road Relay team. This is an exercise in baton passing where six runners run a couple of kilometres each before passing on to the next and it goes on until the last person runs in. Whatever strategy you choose to have, one thing is for certain: you have to be fast. I’ve been training a few runners who I’m eternally grateful for because just how many people are willing to come down to run rounds around a track at 7 am in the morning? (The answer is in fact seven people.) I have the highest hopes and if there’s any lesson that I hope they learn in the coming months it’s that  individual performance is important, but group consistency, more so. The same goes with time. One great workout is awesome, but a hundred good workouts are all the better. With some (and by some I mean a lot of) patience, compounding your gains is what gets you there.

My own cross country training is something I cannot omit as I think about the semester. But I can only summarise my feelings towards it in three words: it’s going well. The team is synchronised in cadence, passion and I’m becoming more attuned to life in Cross. I like it here. Not the over obsessive desire that overtakes and consumes, but the quiet contentment that I’m getting better with every training. Knowing the difference between the two is the key to not burning out. I hope I’ve got this for the semesters to come, and I hope I continue running with the same people by my side.

Balancing my studies and running is all good, but being there for people is essential. And it’s not even that difficult, plus at the core this is what we want for ourselves anyway. I’ve asked quite a few people if a successful career is more crucial to them than human relationships, and so far only a small handful has said yes. The vast majority believe in meaningful friendships over career success. And no wonder; because there’s a vast distinction between feeling fulfilled alone, and feeling fulfilled with others. The latter is where you want to be; whilst being mighty but estranged from all things intimate and familiar is a truly scary prospect. So this leads back to my first point; I need some time to reshuffle my priorities, spend time with people, find more meaning in the things we say to each other, the way we say these things. Study hard, yes. It’s important. I learned just how important it was last semester. But live harder and inch forth eager to be there when you’re there, not in some faraway land concerned with plucking new evidence for your essay off imaginary apple trees.

Spend your money on the things money can buy, and spend your time on the things money can’t buy. 

You belong to the real world, where hearts flutter and muscles need to move and work. So live up to that.

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