The youth-written stories in Represent give inspiration and information to teens in foster care while offering staff insight into those teens’ struggles.

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Enjoy the Moment
Ngan-Fong Huang

Two friends and I were eating in a restaurant after school, and I happened to ask them what they wanted to become when they grew up.

“I don’t know,” one friend said, shrugging his shoulders.

“What do you mean?” I asked, surprised that he didn’t seem to care. “Haven’t you thought about the future yet?”

“There’s plenty of time to decide later,” the other friend added.

I couldn’t believe how relaxed they were about the future, while I, on the other hand, never stopped worrying about completing tomorrow’s “To Do” list.

Then they asked me what my big plans were.

“Well, I have my life sort of planned out already. You see, I want to become a doctor, so that means college, medical school, and then residency. That’s about another 10 years of schooling for me. Later, I want to open my own clinic and probably do some laboratory research.”

In the middle of our conversation, I suddenly remembered all the work waiting for me.

“Oh, no,” I said out loud. “It’s almost 6 o’clock, and I still have a calculus test tomorrow, an English paper due in a week, and a history presentation on Friday.”

“Relax,” they said. “Have some fun. This is senior year.”

Throughout my life, I’ve always lived on schedules and “To Do” lists. Often I feel guilty just sitting around. My motto has always been, “Time is money, so don’t waste it.”

I attend a high school where there’s always a lot of academic pressure, so I’ve had to work hard in order to do well and I’ve pushed myself constantly.

Before going to sleep on a school night, I usually remind myself, “Remember to mail out the college applications,” or “Start studying tomorrow for that killer physics test.”

Other times I get down on myself for things I regret in my past. Sometimes worrying too much just overwhelms me and I become unhappy with my life. Last term, for instance, I went out of my mind over grades and college applications.

image by Joseph Perez

“What’s wrong?” my friend Tiffany asked one day. “You seem so out of it.”

“Just about everything’s wrong,” I mumbled. “No matter what I do and how hard I try, my grades are still dropping like fleas.”

“Look,” Tiffany tried to reassure me, “you’re a smart girl and colleges see that. Anyway, you’re going to study harder and do better on the next test.”

“You’re right,” I said after hesitating for a moment. “That’s exactly what I’m going to tell myself.”

But all the memories I have of last term are depressing. I remember very few happy moments because I did not take the time to enjoy life for what it was.

So that’s what I’m trying to do now, since I’ve already been accepted to college and I’ve got a little less stress in my life. Even though many of my friends and I talk about how we can’t wait to go to college and how great it will be to live away from home, when we finally do go away we’ll realize how much we miss our family, friends, and home.

We’ll remember mom’s chicken with broccoli nostalgically. And when we’re bored stiff in dull college towns, we’ll say, “This city is dead. I wish it were more like New York.”

We’ll long for our youth, just like my grandmother, who always reminds me, “Back when I was young, all the boys would line up just to talk to me. My hair used to be long, black, and pretty. Now I’m old and my hair is all gray and short.”

I’m not trying to say that we should live life enjoying only what is in the present. It’s important to think about future plans and remember the past. If I hadn’t, I might not be heading off to college this fall.

But we should also spend time appreciating what is right before our eyes, since the present is what we have now.

This term I’ve been spending more time with my friends, and I’m happy to get to know them so much better now. We go to the movies, eat out, chat, and, most importantly, we enjoy all being there together. A little voice inside my head still warns me about the work I need to do, but I don’t let it overpower me anymore.

The other night a group of friends and I had just finished eating at a great diner in Manhattan and were walking toward the train station. The dark skies were clear, the breezes felt cool, and all I heard were the muffled sounds of cars driving past us.

I looked at the tall buildings around us, their glass windows reflecting the neon signs in stores. I held my head up high and really took a look at this beautiful city around me—a city I will be leaving in several months for college.

As I stood there enjoying the scenery and my friends who made the picture perfect, all I could think to myself was, “Wow, I haven’t felt so happy in a long time.”

It was at this moment that I let go of all my worries about grades, the future, and even the sadness of spending four years away from New York. I just brought my body and mind into the present and cherished that moment.

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