Wanna Grab a Peace of Pizza?


Over Thanksgiving Break, I met up with a high school friend at our favorite pizza place in our hometown. We were both visiting our families for the holidays, travelling from our new homes far away to the small town we grew up in. Catching up with my old friend, we realized how different our lives are from what we expected. If you would have asked me as a high school senior where I’d be in five years, I could have never guessed I’d be in a Marriage and Family Therapy graduate program in Auburn, AL. But this is where my path has led me, despite how hard I tried at times to go in other directions. But I am so grateful, because my life is way better now than I could have ever planned!

Nelson Mandela said, “There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to find the ways in which you yourself have altered.” Returning to my high school hangout reminded me how much I’ve grown. I have learned so much in the 5 years since I graduated from high school. Actually, I have learned so much in the 5 months since I graduated from college. The most important thing I have learned is to cherish every day. I spent so many years living for the future—studying hard so I can go to a good college, wearing myself out so that I can get a good job one day.

The reality is: My life if happening now! Sure, working hard and planning are important, but there is also value in living in the moment. When we can slow down for a few minutes, take a breath, and spend a moment being grateful for the present, we can take on a perspective that makes stress melt away. Eastern cultures have been practicing this concept of mindfulness for thousands of years. Russ Harris, in his book on The Happiness Trap, defines mindfulness as “a mental state of awareness, openness, and focus—a state that conveys enormous physical and psychological benefits.”

For me, living in the moment means making time for things that are important to me. I try to have some “me time” everyday, whether that means taking a walk, calling a friend, or watching a show on TV. I let my loved ones know how much they mean to me with a phone call, a note in the mail, or even a simple facebook post. Although I’ve gotten better at being mindful, I still need moments like the one at the pizza place to remind me to be grateful for life’s blessings. As the holiday hustle and bustle start to stress you out, remember the important things in life are not the expensive gifts or the fancy meals, but the time spent enjoying your family and friends.

What do you do to stay “in the moment” during the busiest season of the year?

Happy Holidays!   Shauna Staranko


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