There’s something about winter that shifts a person’s energy. Actually, maybe “shift” isn’t the right word. It’s not really a moving thing. More of a stall? Yes, that’s it: Winter stalls a person’s energy.
It’s like we get stuck shifting gears. From sleeping with the windows open and early morning swims and eating dinner in wet togs, to suddenly forgetting what it’s like to not commute in darkness and complaining that the wind feels like needles against your cheeks and Googling the symptoms of a Vitamin D deficiency for the fourth time this week. Even the morning people – of which I am a Founding Father – have been struggling lately. The past few weeks have felt less like seize the day and more like angle my body towards it and try not to stare directly at it.
Those of you in the Northern Hemisphere will attest that this feeling of flatness isn’t just a winter thing either. Instead, most of us would chalk it down to the aftermath of the world’s worst hangover: the past 18 months. And while the novelty of talking about the pandemic has officially worn off - and no I don’t have any “fresh takes” to bestow on you - to ignore its presence is to live in a false reality.
In conversations with friends and colleagues, I’ve realised that what we’re craving right now is something to aim for. Something to point our feet towards. We feel like we’ve lost control over our future and, as a result, we feel stagnant. Stagnant in our friendships and our romantic endeavours and the work we do and in our pursuit of ticking the boxes we (still) quietly believe constitute a good life. I’ve seen it in couples who have gone from living in deliriously noisy and invigorating cities like New York to being forced home and realising that life in a small town is, well, small. I’ve seen it in singles who were convinced that 2021 would be “their year” only to find themselves experiencing emotional whiplash as their country yo-yo’s in and out of lockdown. And I’ve seen it on the faces of those once accustomed to living life out of a suitcase and collecting passport stamps who now feel trapped; itching to go somewhere while at the same time sobering up to the fact that travel will probably never be the same again.
In the interest of being transparent, I’ll admit that I thought I’d know when the pandemic was over. I thought I’d wake up one morning to “Breaking News” and we’d draw a line in the sand and collect our tired bones and dust ourselves off and from that moment forward we’d only ever talk about the pandemic in the past tense. Basically, I thought we were sitting in the departure lounge and that our flight had been delayed. Or it had been rescheduled. Or the terminal had changed. But now I realise that we’re not in the departure lounge. We’ve arrived. This is the place. This is it. And we can’t keep our things packed up anymore, it’s time to unpack our lives and relationships, here.
Humans crave control because it makes us feel safe, like we know what will happen next. But the truth is, the future was just as unwritten pre-pandemic as it is now. The only difference is pre-pandemic most of us had fallen into the habit of projecting our current reality into the future. A kind of copy-and-paste exercise. But the future is no less certain now than it’s ever been. We make plans and lists because they make us think we have control over our destiny. But lists and plans have only ever been just that: They are, at best, an educated guess.
I don’t say any of this to make you feel more stuck or deflated. In fact, what I want to remind you (and my weary self) is that your future is going to continue to mould itself into shapes and experiences and life lessons that you won’t have accounted for and a whole bunch of them will wildly exceed your expectations.
I don’t know about you, but that’s the best news I’ve heard all week.