Life in the Present

Seven months ago, I was scared of the future. I had just left a secured job with no future job or plans in sight. Mentally, I knew I was doing the right thing in leaving. Yet I couldn’t quell that gnawing fear in my stomach – “What will I do now?”

I’ve always been a planner. Ever since I started researching potential high schools in seventh grade, evaluating their potential to get me into a good college, I’ve known what I want in life and how to get there. But seven months ago, I had no answers.

Two months later, I learned I was accepted to the America India Foundation William J. Clinton Fellowship. After a period of euphoria, worry started encroaching on the edges of my happiness again. “Am I doing the right thing?” I wondered. I had been equally assured and excited about my previous job, and look how that turned out.

I pushed these fears away as best as I could and put on an excited face every time someone asked me why the world I was moving to India. It wasn’t a lie, just a partial truth. I was equal parts thrilled and terrified, hopeful and nervous.

One month into my AIF adventure, I finally feel satisfied for a couple of reasons.

First, I love what I am doing. I am working at an amazing organization, staffed by a group of brilliant people, doing work on ambitious and exciting projects. Looking at massive spreadsheets of data every day might sound unpleasant to many people. But working to find the stories and patterns hidden within this mass of data – and then use that information to improve education policy – is exactly what I love to do.

At the same time, I feel constantly supported by the caring fellowship staff and a wonderful cohort of fellows here in Delhi and throughout India. I came into this experience with trepidation, and I have been pleasantly surprised day after day.

Second, and more importantly, being in India forces you to live in the present. When you’re constantly bombarded from all sides with new sounds, colors, smells, tastes, and sensations, it’s hard to worry about the future. Getting through each day – with more frustration and joy that I thought I could fit in 24 hours – is enough of a challenge. There’s simply no room to add worry to all of the emotions and sensations I’m feeling.

I’ll admit that this is an unexpected, but amazing, feeling. I’m being forced to slow down and fully experience each day, instead of squandering half of my thoughts on worry about the future.

I’m sure that eventually I’ll return to some level of planning and fretting about the future. But for now, I’ll enjoy living in the present.

Christine Garcia loves to use data-driven analysis to explore the way that NGOs and public policy can reduce poverty, increase human capital, and improve people's lives. She first became interested in development during her sophomore year in college, when she spent five months living in a shantytown in Peru. While there, she worked for the Light and Leadership Initiative, an educational nonprofit where she created math and chess programs for children. In the next two years, she furthered her love of travel and learning by studying International Relations at the London School of Economics, Gender Studies and Social Movements at the University of Hyderabad in India, and doing research on the UN's Millennium Development Goals at the Institute for Conscious Global Change. After graduating from Dartmouth College with a Government major and Mathematics minor, she moved to Shanghai to teach AP Calculus while volunteering in capacity-building roles at several Shanghai NGOs.

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One thought on “Life in the Present

  1. Christine
    All of us are to a certain extent scared as to what the future holds. But one thing is certain . The future will soon be the current and then the past. In India the Yogi Berra quote is very apt. Every day “the future ain’t what it used to be”. Or as my Uncle says ” you can make things happen but can never prevent something from happening”. So fear not the future and rue the past. As you say live for the present.

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