Recalibrating expectations

There’s something about truly lovely moments that make ugly ones all the more ugly. Winter break was bittersweet. Bitter and sweet to the extreme.

It was my first winter break alone in the city. I didn’t have any plans heading into it, but like the cabbies at the station, would have looked kindly at any passing by. I knew Groningen to be a city with a soul, but those two weeks surpassed all expectations. 

From a few days before Christmas to New Year’s, door after door was opened to me. I was met with warmth and hospitality well beyond anything I could ever have deserved. I’m miles from being a sentimentalist, but I know I will cherish those evenings, and Christmas Eve in particular, for years to come.

With a past like mine, I’m not one to take kindness for granted. Coupled with the enforced near-isolation of the past two years, there’s a real hardness of heart that’s set in. To then be embraced by so many people, who stretched out a hand despite their own difficulties, was almost overwhelming.

There was no great surge in productivity, no eureka moment in the shower, and no end to the spirals of procrastination

The flipside, however, was that I realised just how much I missed my family. Them I had taken for granted, until a few phone calls showed me plain as day how much they cared, and how much pain my being away had caused them. It was a hard pill to swallow, and plain impossible to justify.

The Faustian bargain I’d picked hadn’t payed off. There was no great surge in productivity, no eureka moment in the shower, and no end to the spirals of procrastination. Yet another failed venture into responsibility, and no one to blame in sight but myself. The year had changed, but I evidently hadn’t. 

Faced with all the uncertainty, I see little choice but to be pragmatic. To scale down expectations and take each day as it comes. For those who are struggling to keep afloat, and there are many, I can assure you that most people understand, and that there’s help to be found.

Everybody seems to be out of guesses as to when normality will resume. I suppose we just have to bide our time till it does, and strive to mean something while we’re at it.



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