What Comes Before Next?

By Scott Schimmel

I’m probably the only one, but every now and then I get busted for not paying attention. It usually comes from my kids (“put the phone down, Daddy!”), or sometimes from my wife (“are you even listening to me?!?”), and every now and then I can read it on someone’s face and nearly read their minds (“it’s like he’s not even here with me right now”). It’s not my fault, though! The more I have to do, the more responsibilities and expectations and commitments I have, the more work to be done is turning me into someone who’s cranking on the next moment more than the current one.

But, the meaning of life is…NOW. Or maybe I should rephrase and say: The meaning in life is now.

I know, a lot of now is pretty terrible. Stuck in traffic. In a boring meeting. Looking through magazines in the waiting room. Those four minutes for my French Press to percolate. Reading through emails. Writing a report. 

Now has quite a bit of ordinary, and more than a fair share of logistical, annoying busy work and errand-running. 

But now, is now. 

What if we could change how we approach now? Rather than rush, control, tailgate, cut short, abbreviate, and count the seconds— what if we could find meaning and significance and life, now?

In the YouSchool journey, we’re stepping into a moment with students to help them discover and see their lives in the middle of a story. Up until this point a story has been written, and now is a really interesting time to read the story and interpret the meaning. Most students are thinking about what’s next (sometimes forced to think about what’s next), before considering the story and catching up to the story today. Students are skipping now to get to tomorrow.

We know there’s a lot of pressure on young people to make the leap and get to next and jump to the next level and they’re constantly reminded that what you’re doing today matters for tomorrow— your test scores, your GPA, your involvement in sports, and your hours in community service. 

What’s wrong with feeling the burn? Playing the game for the point of play? Paying attention to learn rather than memorize? 

What if the answers to tomorrow’s questions are being taught today? What if the patterns and habits that dictate our behaviors and choices come from our past experiences, and we’re doomed to play our lives on repeat until we stop to examine the tape?

Tomorrow will be here soon enough. Now has enough meaning to discover.