When Everything Feels Horrible…

This weekend, I spent 20 hours watching all eight Harry Potter movies. It felt like a logical thing to do, given the circumstances.

Not all in one sitting. I did that a few times in the past – it’s exhausting. I’m done being that insane.

I was thinking back to when I did a Harry Potter marathon for my birthday. I invited a couple friends who, bless them, loved me enough to sit around a TV for twenty hours watching Harry Potter, allowing our inner nerds to flourish for a single day. I went all out for that birthday. We had chocolate frogs, Bertie Bott’s every flavor beans, pumpkin pasties, a birthday cake that resembled the one Hagrid gave Harry in the first book, and butter beer. We shared trivia about the Harry Potter Universe during the first three movies, then our enthusiasm dropped significantly.

I don’t think anyone considers how long 20 hours is. By movie four, we’ve already been staring at a screen for sixish hours. Some have already fallen asleep. I’m eating my seventh bowl of popcorn.

Then I think to the time my birthday was on Easter. I had an Easter themed party that year. We had an egg hunt (each person got their own Easter basket for the occasion), wore bunny ears, and ate Easter themed treats – cake pops decorated as festive eggs and a large egg shaped birthday cake. This was a few years ago, so I don’t remember most of the details. I do have distinct memories of a few people who were there – I wonder if they remember this strange birthday party too.

I think most of my birthday parties were random. Perhaps from ages seven to twelve I had a sleepover every year. I’d come up with some exuberant idea and my mom would roll with it (as long as it stayed within the budget). But then… at some point in my teens I stopped doing things for my birthday. Perhaps I’d invite some friends over to watch a movie. My family would always make a cake. But I stopped planning things because I ran out of ideas. And I wasn’t even sure if I wanted all the fuss anyways.

My birthday is this week. And for the first time in a long time, I’d love for some friends to be there.

Plenty of people are in the same boat as me. And it breaks my heart. Everyone deserves a special day where their friends and family spend time with them, bake a cake, and maybe pass around a few presents. Unfortunately… 2020 is not that year.

If we think about all those things we’re missing out on, we’ll never be able to be grateful for the things 2020 has given to us. I mean… maybe January through April hasn’t been great, but we have no idea how the other half of 2020 might be. If we dwell on January through April for the rest of the year, we might miss the best parts.

I don’t know how many times I’ve said this… but I’m going to say it again. Changing perspective is harddddddd.

Make a list

Have you written down recently what you’re thankful for? I know, I know… it’s not Thanksgiving. But sometimes being mindful of everything you do have is helpful year long.

I don’t know about you, but making lists helps me visualize what I’m missing. If I’m stressed, I list out everything I need to do. If there’s too much going on at once (for example, how online school functions daily), I make a list to optimize my time. There’s something simplifying about writing my current situation out.

So take out a piece of paper (trust me… it’s more satisfying if you write in pen than on a keyboard) and write five things that have gone right for you this year. Maybe all five events are concentrated in January. Maybe all five events are super small, and feel meaningless. But write them anyways, no matter how far away or un-impactful they seem.

Here are five things I’m thankful for:

  1. In January, I was accepted into Purdue University
  2. In January, I was very productive in my goals
  3. In April, I decided to do Camp NaNoWriMo
  4. In March, I sent my NaNoWriMo novel to beta readers (people who read a rough draft of my novel and offer feedback). Within two weeks, a beta sent me feedback, far earlier than the deadline I had placed.
  5. This weekend, I got to spend time with my sister watching Harry Potter

Add to the List

When something good happens… add to that list. Small things. Big things. World things.

If you finished up all the requirements for a class, put it on the list. If someone you know beats Coronavirus, put it on the list. If you spent an argument free afternoon with your siblings, put it on the list. Maybe your frozen burrito was really good today. Perhaps every week, it’s your goal to add one good thing to the list.

This doesn’t mean we’re ignoring the current circumstances. It’s okay to admit that things suck. 2020 is not going as planned. We’re all stuck in our houses, some of us faring better than others. The craziness of the world is getting tiring. We want our lives to go back to normal.

Yet… we’re still living. We can’t treat this era of our lives as dead zones. Things did happen. And odds are… at least something every week was good. We’ve got to make sure we’re noticing those moments too.

Put the List Somewhere You’ll See

I have a bulletin board next to my desk. It’s covered with pictures of my friends, the places I’ve been, funny quotes, and general chaos. And I look at this board everyday. So I’m going to put my list there.

Is there somewhere you can put a list of good things? Somewhere you’ll look often?

I’m sure after a while, I’ll stop being thankful for all the things on my list. For one, I’m thankful about Purdue, yet unsure if I’ll even get to attend a college campus in the fall. I’m thankful about Camp NaNoWriMo… but that doesn’t mean my newest novel is going well.

But it’s not so much about your new perspective on those events. It’s not so much continuing to be thankful for everything on that list. It’s a reminder that good stuff has happened in 2020. And to you, specifically.

Maybe by December 31st, we’ll take a look at that list. And maybe we all give up on this list mid-June because the world blew up and everything we knew is gone. But until then… we can be thankful now. And we can remind ourselves on New Year’s Eve that we had a few moments of happiness this year. Whether it be getting into college (regardless of whether we actually get to go) or eating some really good popcorn while watching movies with your little sister.

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