• Jacob Maxwell

Seven Months, Three Kilometres, and the Difference a Pandemic Makes

June. I emerged from my seventeen year-old toyota echo, drenched in sweat after a long commute without air conditioning. Unlocking and entering my unlit apartment, my eyes first met the kitchen counter, where a crumb-covered plate still sat since my rushed breakfast eleven hours earlier. I glanced at the dark empty bedrooms of my absent housemates. Whether it was the heat, my day, or simply my aloneness, I felt unable to do anything else that afternoon. I stripped off the majority of my sweaty garments and hastily slipped under a blanket on the couch. It was about four o’clock. I was asleep within minutes.

Have you ever felt like you’re sacrificing every bit of enjoyment in the present for a foggy and distant future? Before the pandemic and during its initial months, I paid little attention to immediate comforts. I rented an apartment bordering my campus for convenience. I would go months without visiting my favourite part of the city. I didn’t spend significant time on anything that wouldn’t help me get into vet school.

When COVID-19 struck in Ontario, almost every crutch I had once used to prop up my happiness was violently ripped out from under me. No more social studying in the library. No more spontaneous encounters in the University Centre. No more absent-minded nights of inebriation at the clubs.

I knew by summer that it was time for a change. I made a spontaneous decision to move into a downtown century home with five strangers. It seemed reckless to many at the time - I would be paying more rent to live with more people in an ancient building at a significant distance from campus. It turned out to be one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

January. As I open the heavy green door of the old red brick house I now live in, the space within is alive. Stepping inside from a frigid and gloomy day, I am met with light, warmth, laughter, and the smells of cooking. Two dogs rush towards me, their tails wagging with affection and enthusiasm. I draw a chair up to our well-worn wooden dining table as my housemates ask me about my latest urban hike through our city.

It’s obvious that one can become too focused on the present. I won’t argue that all efforts towards the future should be cast aside for immediate pleasures, but I will say that it is very easy for goal-oriented people to become slaves to their future. “When I get in...” “When I graduate...” “When I buy a house...” Until you recognize it, an unhealthy focus on the future could keep you unsatisfied for life.

Are you happy with where you are, regardless of where you’re trying to go? Consider where you live, and with whom you spend your time. Whatever it is that brings you joy in the present, think twice before you sacrifice it for the future.

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