The Art Of Looking Up When Life Slows Down
Counting aeroplanes in the sky used to be my favourite pastime.
It was simple and required little to no physical strain or movement. There was no gimmick, trick or shiny object involved to top the fun up a notch, yet, somehow, I’d do it without fail.
As many of you will know, I used to live in a small town in Italy, but what you might not know is it used to be a quick ride away from the airport in Milan. Now, I have been on many, many plane rides since, but back then, I only had one stamp as proof on my passport. I was still very much fascinated by the concept of the flying bird as a mode of transportation as well as all it represented; a new life, a new city, a new language, new food – a new world essentially. I had experienced all of those first-hand and couldn’t help but wonder who the people on board were, but most importantly, who they were about to become.
So, as a little girl, I’d sit on my bed whilst my sister would sit on hers and together we’d count as many aeroplanes as our eyes could see pass by.
“I’ve seen five planes today already”, she’d say even before lunchtime at noon and I’d follow up with “I’ve seen some too as well”.
Sometimes, we’d make a competition out of it and we’d try to see as many planes pass by as we possibly could. We used to commit to it a lot more than we did our assignments from elementary school and I certainly have no recollection of whether the winner bagged anything valuable for their diligent observation. Starting from the moment we opened our eyes till when we closed them firmly there was always something in the blue sky making its way across a seemingly straight line. From our window, there was a perfect view of the sky and in it we’d always search for the little gems. One day, I’m unsure when exactly, we stopped searching. We stopped counting. We stopped caring.
Maybe, it was from the time when we began to be held solely accountable for not doing our homework. Or was it from when we became responsible for choosing what we’d have at lunchtime during break time and handling our pocket money? Maybe, it was from the moment we just stopped being happy all the time but found ourselves looking for reasons to be happy at all times.
All I know is at some point, I stopped thinking about what I could find in the sky, but I started thinking about what I could fix or change down on the ground.
Lately, I’ve been speaking to a friend who has been struggling with her mental health and finds it difficult to wake up in the morning or find the desire to do things on the daily.
Lack of inspiration? Lack of grit? Or determination? Together, we tried to find out exactly what is at the root of her constant rut and simply put, we concluded she just doesn’t love where she is right now in her life. There’s no passion at the moment, nothing that makes her want to get up from her bed in the morning; nothing to light a spark.
I suggested she take on a new hobby or activity to change or enhance the pace of her life. If only, I could take the advice I easily give out.
It sucks to admit it, but in many ways, the feelings she described in our lengthy chats hit a little too close to home, or, in social media terms, they were #relatable.
Ever since even before graduation, people have been posing the same question to me over and over again. ‘So, what’s next?’. This question for me has always been the most daunting for a lot of reasons. Firstly, the more I was asked, the more I expected it from every single person I came across, whether intentionally or by fate. Secondly, it’s a question that assumes all the balls are in your court; whatever you want can always be made to happen, and as I’ve grown older and certainly less naïve, I find that a lot of times in life that’s simply not the case. Thirdly, it’s a question that assumes you have an answer ready to be exposed and yelled at top lungs if necessary.
For the most part, I didn’t have an answer to that short question. As a matter of fact, that question would often prompt a confused-startled look on my face, sweaty palms and a heightened desire to escape the conversation. Sometimes, I struggled to hold on to the answer hanging loosely on the tip of my tongue: a straightforward, b.s. ridden ‘I don’t know’.
Because I knew the question would come my way at any and every given moment without fail, I had a go-to answer I prepared that I would then adjust according to who I was conversing with. I knew exactly what I was going to say; prepped and ready like a suspect on trial, and I never strayed too far from the usual answers I was used to giving. I’d then wait for the signal that always came in a form of vocal approval, ‘Oh, that sounds interesting’, ‘That shouldn’t be too difficult’, ‘Good luck then’.
We live in a society where it’s abnormal to not be on to the next. Everyone seems to have planned their lives all the way down to their last days, even to the days they’ll be in a box underground. Everyone seems to be at least three steps ahead at all times and we all follow the chase in order to not be left behind. Wedding cake and dress picked out by the age of 13, the next trip booked before the current one is over, thoughts on what to do for dinner at cereal time. It’s all go, go, go, and we’ve been sold that is the way to go.
On social media, people are rarely ever chilling or simply bored. People have already begun sharing their to-do list at 8 am, they post their workout routine videos by 9, and they wear the ‘busy badge’ like it’s a crown of honour. We plan everything now, from our weekend drinks to the content we create and post on social media; everything answering to an impeccable theme, with impeccable rhythm. Sometimes, I feel like I’m the only one without answers to the question ‘So, what’s next?’.
I’ve been making a couple of moves lately that have reminded me that sometimes life doesn’t give you answers in a heartbeat, sometimes, it makes you sweat it out and wonder. Sometimes, it tests your patience.
Patience: a concept I’m pretty sure we’ve all forgotten about in the midst of all the rush.
Just like my friend, my days have also been uneventful, unexciting and honestly just plain boring. It’s been a waiting game of sorts that has forced me to slow down and look around a lot more than I’m used to. Days filled up with the same routine, things done at the same time, life lived in the same ways.
As the control freak I admit to being, it has been really hard to not know exactly where life is going or what’s behind the path my vision can’t reach yet. The void, the unknown, and the silence are all the things you might have to deal with when life slows down and some things are out of your control and hands.
In many ways, however, it’s been a silence that has allowed me to listen to my own loud thoughts and really examine my own state of mind.
I’ve been questioning where I’m headed without the voices of many pointing fingers into different directions. I’ve been wondering what I really want right now, at the moment, in the present. As a self-proclaimed impatient person, I’ve been forced to practice the art of waiting and it has been quite insightful to see exactly who I become when I have no choice but to wait.
It’s funny; when living at full speed you don’t realize a lot of things in life; you don’t notice the colours in the sky change, you don’t notice the bird sat by your window, you don’t reflect on the desires and chaos lingering in your mind.
Counting aeroplanes was more than a childhood mindless game to me. I believe it was a form of sharpening my ability to see the fragment in the big picture. It was about seeing the little things, noticing them and analysing them. It forced me to be patient, to wait, to slow down and see the path on which the plane was headed. It was all about noticing what was right in front of me at the moment knowing that there will always be another one up in the sky soon after.
Your restless romantic roamer
Pictures were taken on my trip to Burlington, Vermont