A couple weekends ago I went on a camping trip with two good friends. We’d planned for one night in Traverse City and one night in Charlevoix, securing spots at the campsites a month ahead. We’d packed the tent, food, and other supplies, and made some tentative plans to walk around the downtowns and visit a winery.
We’d planned everything out. But as the weekend finally approached, so did the one thing you can never control—the weather. It was forecasted to rain throughout the entire weekend.
The drive up north was rainy and foggy, and we kept our fingers crossed that it would let up enough that we could at least set up our tent. To our luck, the rain slowed to a drizzle as we entered Traverse City and had stopped by the time we got to the state park. We set up our tent and were even able to coax some damp firewood into providing us with a late-night campfire. In the morning we got up, took down the tent, and went to the bathhouse. Just as we walked back to our car, the rain started again, as if it had been waiting just for us.
That luck held for the rest of the weekend, and we never had to set up or take down our tent in the rain. We did get damp while browsing shops in Traverse City in the rain, and when we went to Chateau Chantal, a winery at the top of a hill on Old Mission Peninsula, the supposed 360-degree view of Lake Michigan was obscured by fog.
But again, once we reached our campsite in Young State Park in Charlevoix that evening, although parts of the campground were flooded and marshy, our campsite was relatively dry, and we had enough time to make and eat some ramen before it started raining again.
All in all, it was a good weekend well spent with two good friends. We did the best we could with what we had, and we were all flexible enough that we still had a good time.
But sometimes I get inside my head, interrogating myself as to whether the present moment is the best it can be, if I’m making the best memories I can, if the moment is as meaningful as it could be. Sometimes simple circumstances like the weather can throw off my enjoyment of the moment. Sometimes I think about the present moment so much that I disconnect from it rather than just let myself live it.
I’ve written before on how meaning can be found in small moments just as much as in grand ones, but recently I’ve been wondering if my focus on living in the moment is less out of a true embrace of the present and more out of a fear of the future. It’s easier to think about what I want to do for the next five minutes than it is to think about where I want to be in five years because what if I look up from what I’m doing and realize I don’t know where I want to go?
It’s disquieting to reach the top of a hill and look up and see not a beautiful view but fog all around you. The fog of my future is filled with half-hearted dreams and half-hearted attempts at achieving those dreams. I fight every day between wanting to do something meaningful with my life and wanting to just exist as I am, making meaning out of small moments, just living life and living it as authentically as possible. Do I need a dream to be happy? Can’t I find happiness in smaller things? Or am I just not daring to dream big out of a fear of never achieving that dream? If both can be true, do I still need to choose?
I’m starting to think that destiny is nothing more than a thousand steps in the same direction. But if that’s true, then to live a life with no regrets I would have to look up from my steps from time to time to make sure I’m heading in a direction that I actually want, rather than just wandering from here to there.
I haven’t yet found a way to resolve these two desires—living in the moment and working for the future. I don’t have any solutions. I just have to keep walking forward, through the fog.
Lauren Cole (’20) graduated with a major in English and minors in French and psychology. She grew up in Grand Rapids and wants to live as she wants to die—surrounded by trees. She loves adding books to her TBR, but actually reading them is another matter.