The loss of dreams was what changed me the most.
I have always lived in the future: the travel plans; the career aspirations; the never-ending trust that this date, this job interview, this house viewing, this step out of the door could lead to a new, exciting future. And not just a vague future; a very specific one.
Got that job in Inverness? Here is my imaginary house, where I will do a lot of knitting in the evenings. This is the imaginary local pub where me and my imaginary dog will have dinner on Saturday evenings after wandering the Highlands for hours on end, maybe joined by one of my imaginary new colleagues that I will have bonded with at the imaginary zumba classes on Tuesday afternoons.
Or maybe it is this date that turns out to be my life partner, the man of my dreams? We will struggle a little at first, both of us with unmatching baggage from past relationships, but ultimately we will rise above it. We will move into a shared flat, go travel around Mongolia for a month, then decide to build a sustainable house together in the outskirts, cycle to work on our electric bicycles, and grow carrots in our back garden. I will move back home for a bit when my sister has a baby, but it does not break us. He will learn my language to talk to my imaginary niece. We will be happy.
Or maybe, who knows, maybe today is the day when a chance encounter in a cafe will lead to the most important project of my life. Or maybe at this workshop I will meet a person that will become my best friend for the next decade. Maybe this trip abroad will lead to discovering a new home, a new community, a new lifestyle. Maybe.
Right now there are no dreams. No chances to take; no surprises; no unexpected encounters. Maybe things will change tomorrow; maybe they won’t; maybe I will sit in this house, with these same people, drinking this same cup of coffee until the rains of November kick in and the streets of Edinburgh forget what sunlight feels like. Everything is the same; but as the days turn into weeks and months, I notice a change.
When you stop living for the future, you have to be in the present. Really experience the present; not as a passing point on the way to a yet unknown but certainly brilliant future, but as the space you inhabit every single day. And when you can’t wait for the future to bring a change, you have to create the change yourself.
And so slowly, step by step, almost unnoticed, I started changing the present. I finally unpacked boxes from a move half a decade ago. I learned to cook and collected recipes in a book for current and future me to revisit. I washed my windows; I cleaned my garden and planted some flowers. I sought out online courses on skills I’d long wanted to learn but never had time or energy for. I started running. I think I stopped waiting for a big change; a single moment to take away my current life and give me a shiny new one full of potential. Instead I started digging for shreds of potential wherever I could find any, and gently coaxing them to grow. Step by step; little by little.
It may well be that I will still be sitting in this chair in November; still sipping a coffee, outwardly unchanged. It may be that nothing much will have changed at all. But I’m starting to think that maybe that future - the one that I have moulded and built from the ground up, from the confines of my dream-less, future-less present - that maybe that future will not be so bad after all.