Winter Gloom + Sunshine (Ep. 48)

The winter gloom has tried its best to drag my mood into the dark depths of cold and gray. But, I’m not giving up. Also, sunshine is pretty awesome.

Okay, maybe I’ll give you a little more detail. Let’s start where every blog post, podcast, video, and probably even TV show starts today: with the fact that those of us who still use paper calendars (I haven’t seen one of those in years!) will need to change over to a new one.

This year is essentially over, and when it starts up again, I have to endure two weeks of full-time in-person education. Yes, despite COVID and all that. Let’s hope my body can handle it. I’ll have to wear shoes, too. Not looking forward to any of it.

And to make things worse, it’s winter, German winter. We are alternating between fog and rain a few degrees above freezing and hail, ice, and the occasional dusting of snow a few degrees below. I’ve had my least favorite barefoot experience, too, when the ground was covered in tiny icicles from a hailstorm the previous night. Walking on sandpaper, I tell you. I’d do it again any day.

But what I don’t want to do, especially not for ten days in a row, is: get up every morning before the sun rises, walk the dog in fog, rain, snow, freaking cold winds, and whatever else lovely Northern Germany has to offer, take a stuffed train in the middle of a pandemic to go into a lab wearing shoes that make me feel strangled (and stumble around like a toddler), to then walk a long distance (and about a hundred steps, literally) to a metro station that takes me to the train station from where I take the train home. Rinse, lather, repeat. I don’t want to. And, to be quite frank, I’m not sure my body or my mind are up to it.

But, as always, I’ll manage.

I realized one thing this week, more than before: I need sunlight. There were two glorious days of sunshine and bright white snow all around us. I walked barefoot through the powder and enjoyed it tremendously. Yes, it was fucking cold, but it also made me feel alive. The next day, the sun returned, and I found myself spring-cleaning the apartment the day after Christmas—or was it the second day after Christmas? Nevermind.

To me, the equation is simple: Sunlight = motivation. And also: No sunlight = absolutely no fucking motivation, whatsoever.

The next day, I woke up to gloomy gray and drizzle, and I couldn’t get in gear all day. I need the sun. Or at least some freaking daylight. Here, it feels like it’s either not late enough to get up or too late to be awake.

But, this too shall pass. I’ll survive the two weeks in January. I’ll survive the exams in February. And then spring will already be knocking on our doors.

The only thing that keeps me going is planning for the future. I’m more than halfway through my bachelor’s degree. As soon as I hold that in my hands—or maybe even as soon as I start writing my thesis—we plan to move on. We’ve made plans that we are super excited about, but we aren’t quite ready to share them yet. So, more on that later.

But with a future to work toward, the steps feel more like a hike up a mountain than an aimless wander.

So, with a hopeful heart that has nothing to do with the date on the calendar, I am looking forward to what’s next. I am not sure if I’ll ever be able to tell 2020 from 2021 in my head. It feels as if 2021 didn’t exist. And while I’m sure 2022 will be in the grips of COVID, at least in large parts, I hope to be able to see more of the city we live in. I hope to grab a drink with friends, go to a concert or reading, maybe a poetry slam. I hope to see smiles, even if they don’t quite reach the eyes. And most of all, I hope to lose that feeling I get when watching videos of people hugging or kissing strangers, of people crowding in a stadium, even just of people walking through a grocery store without a mask. I hope my first reaction will no longer be that they’ll be spreading the virus or get sick.

And I’m aware that the holidays are supposed to be this upbeat time of spending a shitton of money on gifts for people we don’t know well enough to choose a good one and cooking up heaps of food to share over arguments with family—um, sorry. I meant this is supposed to be an upbeat time of thoughtful gifts and shared meals with family and friends. I know it’s supposed to be a time of resolutions and hopes and dreams. But I don’t want to lose weight—I’m actually underweight already, thank you very much. I don’t want to go to the gym five times a week or whatever. I don’t want to give up chocolate—I mean, I barely eat any as it is.

I want 2022 to be better than a year that feels like it wasn’t there. And, like every day, I want to be a better person than the day before.

I hope, like every day, that we will be able to turn this thing around, that tolerance and understanding will grow, that humanity will learn humility and accept its place in nature, that we can stop the greed and narcissism. I hope for a lot of things. If you’ve been following me for a while, you know about a lot of my dreams, hopes, utopias, and maybe-not utopias. And if I can make a wish for 2022, it’s this:

Let me be myself. Let me stay curious. And let me fucking keep dreaming.

Signing off for the year. Dare to be fucking weird, my friends! Get well into 2022, though I’m not sure how that night is any more dangerous than any other night. Unless you get hit by fireworks or something. Anyway, Guten Rutsch, as they say in Germany. Slide well into 2022.

Kate Hildenbrand

Kate Hildenbrand

Kate Hildenbrand is the writer behind the essays here, author of fiction novels, the creator of the Kate Hildenbrand podcast, and a student of marine ecology. At least, that's her on the surface.