The anniversary of my last social outing has been and gone (The 1975 gig at the Point, many germs), so I’m feeling a little reflective about the past year. It’s nice because the reflection itself doesn’t actually take too long. Nothing happened. Honestly, not a single thing happened. The only things that happened did so entirely inside my mind, wherein I’d plan how I was going to make something happen (now that there was so much time for the happening to happen). Like that film The Happening, where nothing happened.
I’m going to get so much done, I thought, against the advice of every actual successful person I follow online. “Friendly reminder that you don’t have to be creative or productive during lockdown,” went the chorus on Twitter. Sensible. Realistic. I’ll just ignore that and crack on because this kind of sensible advocacy obviously doesn’t apply to me, a creative.
Instead, I will write my book! I will learn to make my own clothes! I will grow tomatoes and aubergines!
My brain responds immediately to time limits. Give me a long stretch of time and I’ll find some way to fill it. Or, I’ll find a way to panic about filling the days with something productive. Give me a lockdown and I’ll go into overdrive.
And so, what follows is a non-chronological list of everything I thought I could do while locked down in a flat with two other people 24-hours-a-day while a global pandemic brought the world to a standstill.
Wow, it turns out that bread is actually not that difficult to make. Look at this loaf. And that’s not banana bread either; this is actual, real-life bread. And it tastes good! I know — I will break out the Breads of the World recipe book, and commit to making a different kind of bread every week. I can take photos of the bread and post them online. I could become some kind of bread blogger, who lands sponsorship deals with Odlums. When lockdown is over, I will get a job at a bakery, or open my own.
Almost immediately after lockdown was announced, Spring 2020
You know, now that I think about it, the only thing that was ever stopping me from becoming an athlete was that I just didn’t have the time. Look at me now, it’s spring, and I have all the time in the world. I can run 5k every day! Is that excessive? Not during lockdown! I’ll buy weights online and have them delivered to my flat, where I’ll transform an area of the living room into a home gym and become a strong, magnificent athlete. Maybe I’ll run the 2021 marathon… in New York.
April 10, 2020. The day The Strokes released The New Abnormal
Wow, I really miss playing my guitar. I’ve googled how long it takes to become “really good” at playing the guitar, and I reckon an hour a day until the end of lockdown should do it. I’m watching so many guitar men on YouTube, and they seem to think that it’s all about spending the time on it, so how hard could it be? Perhaps I’ll finally move beyond playing barre chords and learn a solo. A kind of cool, complex solo that will impress people when I play it at a party or in a music shop while I pretend to shop for expensive guitars. Wow, they’ll think, a real musician.
August 2020 — March 2021
Ah yes, the book. People write a novel in a month during NaNoWriMo, and I have, potentially, many many months to write mine. I’ve downloaded a free trial for Scrivener, watched all four Marian Keye’s writing lessons on YouTube, and I’m ready to write my book. I’m learning so much about plot! About character! About routine! I’ll just look at another Pinterest board full of colourful post-it note plotting plans and then I swear I’ll get cracking on the great Irish novel.
A year on, I’m still loftily setting goals that I probably won’t reach. I’d like to press on with the book, though it currently consists of the odd late-night scribble in various Google docs with names like Untitled and Untitled (1). I haven’t run a 5k every day, but I’ve done it at least once. I don’t have a vegetable garden, but I’m growing some onions on the windowsill that seem to be — if I may say — thriving. I haven’t made bread since last summer, because bread is cheap and the ones from the shop are much nicer. I’ve knit two hats and four scarves, and have given some to friends as gifts. I’ve kept all of my plants alive, and even brought an aloe back from the dead.
Lofty goals are fun, and the best thing about them is that you don’t actually have to do them. Daydreaming about them is, actually, really fun. Spending a day fucking around on your guitar isn’t a day wasted just because you didn’t become a world-class guitar player. Writing, and never finishing, a short story or a poem is fun, and it doesn’t matter if it doesn’t bring you literary success. Big goals mean that you get to try on a new hat; the hat of a baker, or a blogger, or a gardener. And when it doesn’t work out, and you quit those goals, that’s okay too. We’ve literally never had a better excuse.
There will always be enough time to do what we want, and there will never be enough time to do everything we want. But isn’t it fun to pretend for a little bit?
This week’s playlist embraces possibility. Energy. Pop it on while you plan your huge, unrealistic project and remember that it can be just as fun to pretend for a while. There is, literally, no pressure.
Thanks to Carlo, Aisling, Craig, and (to a lesser extent) Colm for the song suggestions.