Stefanie Preissner: Looking forward

Is it just me, or are other people missing having something to look forward to?

hen I was a kid, there was a point in early August when I would start looking forward to going back to school. It usually coincided with the smell of new books, and the inimitable waft of cheap plastic when you opened a new pencil case. I would place all my pencils facing the same direction, tucking my sharpener safely into the side. After Mam had covered my books in clear contact, I would stow them in my school bag, arranging them from tallest to smallest, being careful to make sure all the spines were level and enough space had been left at the front for my lunch box.

The anticipation of seeing my friends and showing off my new stationary brought far more happiness than the act of going back to school actually did. The event itself was tarnished by the scratchy uniform and the exhaustion of long days concentrating on multiplication and unspoken social rules.

Happiness in life

Rich, poor, old, young, personal circumstances don’t really matter – across the board, having something to look forward to brings happiness into your life. I think it’s important for everyone to be able to look at the next few months and have at least a few days, events, or moments sprinkled through their calendar that they know are going to be fun, exciting and joyful.

Is that a really privileged, millennial expectation of what a life should be?

Am I wrong in thinking that my whole life shouldn’t be a slog?

Do I have notions because I don’t want to live through a conveyor belt of ‘shoulds’ and ‘have tos’?

The list of daily exigencies and grocery shops gets heavy when there’s nothing light to lift life up.

A parade of dreaded Zoom calls, horrible queues and obligatory tasks is depressing, and recently I’m feeling like I need a break from it all.

I got excited about going to the podiatrist the other day because the greatest joy in my week was going to be the removal of a painful callus I’ve developed from not wearing any shoes for the last few months. There has to be more to life than this. I think it has to do with hope. If today is a struggle and yesterday was a drag, then the hope for a better tomorrow is crucial in getting through the day. Putting a date and an achievable goal on that hope makes it easier to achieve. Usually, at this time of year, I am looking forward to my friend coming home from New York for her September visit. Her trip is postponed indefinitely. She and I, and everyone else, are like leaves at the mercy of the wind. The wind is Covid-19 and we are powerless to control where it wants to take us. We can make all the plans in the world, but for what? I can’t indulge in the gorgeous anticipation and planning of them, because at the back of my mind, I know nothing is certain.

I’m trying to figure out things that I find fun that I can plan for and depend on. I dream about a staycation in Lahinch, but the uncertainty of the future scares me away from actually booking it. Aside from the possibility of further lockdowns is the fear of inclement weather. To be living in Ireland is to have the joy of being weather dependent.

Please don’t come at me with suggestions of hikes and walks and excursions. I’m a nightmare when it comes to holidays. What other people find fun very often fills me with dread.

Roughing it

Hiking, camping, or anything that involves being more than a mile from a real toilet is a no-no. I can see the charm in roughing it and being close to nature and all its creatures, but I like comforts. I hate being cold; I refuse to be outside in the rain except when necessary.

When I travel back home to Mallow, part of the enjoyment is deciding which service stations I’ll stop at. If I’m travelling in the morning, I’ll stop at a Circle K because I’m obsessed with their black pudding. If the trip covers lunch, I’ll stop at an Applegreen or one of Pat McDonagh’s super havens. Without the destination of Mallow, there’s no point in going on the journey. Without some end goal, the obstacles and toll bridges of life seem pointless.

I’ve started to really dig deep to find the joy in life since the big-ticket items seem out of reach. At the moment, it’s my first cup of coffee in the morning. Most days, that simple pleasure is enough, but other days are harder. Mindfulness and gratitude escape me on a rainy Monday.

Maybe I’ll just have to suck it up and start shopping online for some rain gear.

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