Is a blank sheet of paper more intimidating than a long to-do list?
Since the coronavirus lockdown began, I've tried to tame my ambitions. At least, I've tried not to set unattainable goals for lockdown. It's easy to take something like being stuck indoors and tell yourself that now is your moment. Now's the time, one might think, to achieve all that you've ever wanted to achieve.
But the simple problem with that is that there is still the same number of hours in a day. What held us back from learning new skills before wasn't being able to leave the house. It was a lack of drive, motivation, energy, and patience. A lockdown changes none of that.
Instead, now more than ever, there's a real danger to changing too much in your life. The world is turning upside down. Earth seems to be spinning much faster nowadays. What was normal is now strange, what was simple is now complex. Where we worked away from home, we now work at home. Where we ventured to the shops, we now await deliveries to the doorstep. And despite that, people have seemed to be proclaiming that we should use our time locked down for something constructive, something ambitious as if it's some universal truth. I reject that argument. Now is not the time for an overhaul.
Having scaled back my ambitions, my keenness to resist building a to-do list the length of my arm has resulted in a blank sheet of paper. And this can feel equally as dangerous: what if my social life evaporates into nothing? What if I spend all my free time eating easter chocolate and breathlessly absorbing trash TV?
The answer, as always, is moderation. I have picked up new habits while in quarantine, and I have forced myself to try new things. But I've not committed to anything? Where I've wanted to try baking, I've tried baking (it turns out I can make a mean meringue). Where I've wanted to learn how to play Chinese chess, I have leaned how to play Chinese chess. But what's motivated me has come from inside. The blank page has been filled by spontaneity, and a cupboard full of baking ingredients. Now is not the time to be driven by an over-ambitious to-do list. Instead, let yourself relax, and see where that takes you.