Be where your feet are

In my late elementary, early middle school years, every basic girly such as myself had an inspirational quote in their instagram bio. Mine was copied from a Bachelor contestant’s instagram caption, adding to the cringe level. The quote itself was quite simple and beautiful though: “Be where your feet are.” Though I didn’t think much about making this the phrase that would introduce me to the people looking at my profile, over the years it has become an extremely grounding reminder for my young-adult self.

Over the last few years, I’ve faced the same classic uncertainties that so many young adults go through. What is my college experience going to be like? Should I have gone out with my friends instead of staying in to study? What internships should I be applying to? When will this pandemic finally end? How am I supposed to focus on my online lecture when I have a million other tabs open? Am I dating the person I’ll end up with? Should I be looking into graduate school or jobs?

All of these questions are a testament to how anxious we as a society are in overthinking our past and over-anticipating our future. These questions are also reflective of modern society’s determination to keep moving forward and making progress. We’re not very good at sitting still and taking in the present. Whether that comes from Capitalist demands, social media comparison, or an innate psychological drive, is beyond me. What I do know, however, is that every time I realize I’ve wasted a beautiful moment by being mentally elsewhere, I regret it. But then I waste THAT moment by regretting a past moment. This isn’t a great cycle, and it’s one that sadly a lot of us are guilty of.

Therapists and self-help books can give you good grounding strategies to challenge this cycle, but at the end of the day, that mental reframing needs to come from within. If you have anxiety issues, this shift is all the harder to make, as it sometimes feels like your brain is fully forcing you to overthink the past or future. Still, it’s a task worth devoting attention to. Whether that looks like learning to meditate, using the “container” methods of compartmentalization that DBT practices endorse, or embracing other grounding techniques – shifting your attention to being where your feet are is so necessary. It doesn’t need to mean never giving cognitive focus to these fears or regrets – it just means being able to shift out of it when you know that you want to fully experience the moment you are currently in

The ability to shift also doesn’t have to have a 100% success rate. My old therapist told me that if you can make the shift 30% of the time, it’s still better than not shifting at all, and I stand by that wholeheartedly. If you’re having the best time hanging out with your little cousins on Christmas and all of a sudden, your aunt asks you what grad schools you’re applying to, you’re going to be thrown for a loop. If you’re anything like me, the seemingly infinite worries about grad school will flood back in for a bit, and it won’t matter how adorable your little cousins are when playing with their gifts (totally not speaking from personal experience or anything). Whether or not you shift out of it, even if only at 30% capacity or for only 30% of the night, is in your control though. 30% is achievable. It’s what I aim for nowadays, and this has easily been the best way to not let an overwhelming feat seem impossible for my anxious brain.

I’m happy that my middle school self found value in this quote before ever internalizing how profoundly important it is to live by. Even past me is serving to remind me to be with present me, and if that’s not the most sadly meta thing ever, I don’t know what is.

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