In looking forward, you might find more happiness—so long as you’re prepared to search in some unexpected places along with the way.
A friend of mine once told me, that in order to be happy, he believed most people needed at least two things to look forward to. It struck me as a good observation at the time—and something I often think about if I’m feeling down. What are my two things? I’ll wonder. If nothing immediately springs to mind, I’ll assume it’s the source of my unhappiness and get to work thinking.
When I was a student, it was easier to find things to look forward to. There was always an exam to finish, a summer holiday in the distance and any number of friends willing to hang out. These days I have to be more imaginative as to where I pin my future hopes. It’s especially hard given the state of the world right now – the news has never been a barrel of laughs, but things seem particularly grim. Trump will eventually cease being the U.S president. Everyone will eventually get that women are actual people. Climate change might mean the beach gets closer and I can grow bananas in my backyard. But these things seem a bit too distant and fanciful. So, I have to stretch a little.
Right now I’m looking forward to a library conference I’m attending in two weeks. I can almost feel your puzzled expressions as you read that previous sentence. No, library conferences haven’t suddenly become wild festivals of uninhibited self-expression with a bonus swag bag of free puppies and candy. If they were, I’d be into that too, but as it stands I’m still pretty excited. I like my job. I work for a library service that runs a national digital platform of free, super-cool content. It’s the kind of thing researchers love, and love to talk about.
Over the four days I’ll be running our booth at the conference, I’m expecting a lot of love and stories. People tell me about the fun things they’ve found, like family historians discovering their mysterious great-aunt was actually a famous vaudeville performer. An engineer used the designs from our archives of an 1800s-era prosthetic hand, to design a modern cheap-to-produce, 3D-printed prosthetic for children. Crimes have been solved, arguments settled, and we discovered that casting a female Dr. Who has been talked about since at least the 1980s. I’m looking forward to a few days of good chats—plus I don’t mind travelling for work. It still makes me feel grown-up and sophisticated.
I’m also looking forward to planning my next holiday. Note that I didn’t say going on holiday, even though I’m looking forward to that too. It’s the planning—browsing hotels, thinking of fun activities, just picturing myself in a new location—that I’m really into. This should come as no surprise to regular readers, since I’ve posted before about what a massive travel nerd I am. But it’ll be good to see if my revised suitcase-packing guidelines hold up on the next trip.
Like I said, creativity’s the thing. Maybe if you don’t have enough things to look forward to, you need to start convincing yourself you like more things. Could you start loving laundry? There’s always laundry to do. I mean, imagination has its limits, but you’ll never know until you try. Right?