We start making our way to Sandy Cape to enjoy a nice day at the beach. A swim in the ocean, an afternoon spent working by the beach, and some cheap food from a nearby servo or bakery. Yesterday, we went to the Pinnacles Desert. I sat on the window of the passenger seat door and held onto the roof of the car as my partner drove. Long before, we had been looking forward to leaving Perth and getting some fresh air once regional travel restrictions because of coronavirus eased within Western Australia. Even longer still, our minds have been full with talk of the future, least of all what type of work we envision ourselves doing once we find the new normal. Much longer, we have been preoccupied with questions about when and what we will eat or drink, and what leisurely pursuits to dedicate our time to. Much of our lives were spent without each other and we still looked to the future during each of those years. During those years, I looked forward to waking up to go to school or a longed-awaited family trip or reunion. On some days, my family and I would wake up at 4:00am in the morning to hitchhike our way to our destination, or maybe catch a bus. Sometimes we would drive. Other times were spent imagining the lives we could lead in ever distant countries across the vast Indian Ocean, and yet others still, the lives we could lead if ever we were to return ‘home’ to Zimbabwe. I have also spent hours swiping left and right on Tinder in the hopes of securing a date. My life, my partner’s life, and others’ lives are made of anticipation. And I hate it.
It is February and I wake up in the morning and all I can think about is my upcoming research trip to Moscow. I have lost my appetite. I am dehydrated and yet the thought of water is enough to make my stomach turn. All I want is to be standing on the streets of Moscow. I want to hear the sound of tongues dancing to the rhythm of the Russian language. I am pacing and my heart is racing. There are five days left before I can even board my flight and embark on the long journey there. I am chock-full of anticipation and it refuses to leave room for anything else.
It is another February, some years before, and we are in South Africa waiting to board our flight to Australia. We have been told many stories about what to expect once we arrive in Australia. Images of glamorised curb-side pick-ups boasting brand new televisions, sofas, and fridges for anyone to claim. Our mouths are covered with earth-shattering grins as we tell ourselves that we won’t have to spend any money in Australia. Hours pass in an uncomfortable airplane and soon we are landing in an uncomfortable airport to the questioning stares of a white Australia whose stomach is queasy at our presence. Not long after, we learn that curb-side pick-ups are not all glitz and glamour as our visions of Australia shatter before our eyes. Once more, anticipation has been replaced with crushing disappointment.
It is November closer to now. I am about to finish my master’s degree and I am feeling uncertain about the future. Struggling with a lack of sleep and scurrying to move back in with my parents, a military coup back ‘home’, an upcoming academic conference, and the media knocking at my door to provide analysis on the ‘Zimbabwe situation’ all see me losing touch with ‘reality’. I am unable to distinguish between what is and what isn’t real. My mind is playing tricks on me and it is on display for the everyone to see. Anticipation has taken my mind on a wild ride full of worry about the future. It does what it does best: refuses to leave room for anything else. There is much more where these experiences came from, and they have all left me resolute. I hate anticipation.
Looking forward to the future can be a worthwhile endeavour. But, I have found that it can turn into an all-consuming practice that can have a debilitating impact. This goes beyond an increased heart-rate, restlessness, the inability to think about anything else other than whatever we are anticipating. It affects the very ways in which we orient ourselves towards our present and future. Anticipation betrays the inability to find satisfaction in one’s present circumstances. Certainly, there are often very real and difficult reasons why people often cannot do so. I hate anticipation because it prevents me from appreciating those mundane things that make life worth living. It blinds us to the poetry of a cup of tea shared with a loved one, a smile between strangers, or the very fact of breathing.
Anticipation colours our orientation towards the future with expectation, which can leave one in a state of despair, excitement or numbness. This forecloses many alternative possibilities to what is anticipated, particularly in those cases where we find ourselves negating the now. Anticipation places limitations on our imaginative capacity and on our ability to approach the future in an unencumbered way. When we are anticipating something ‘good’, the very feeling of doing so stands in the way of allowing time to pass and allowing the thing to arrive without us becoming consumed with images of its arrival. Today, I am looking forward to going to Sandy Cape with my partner. I do not care if it will be as beautiful as people say. It is a place I cannot hate, not yet anyway.
Tinashe Jakwa is a PhD Candidate in Political Science and International Relations at the University of Western Australia. She is an emerging writer and playwright whose short stories have appeared in anthologies by Margaret River Press and Ethos Books Singapore. In 2019, she completed an Inclusion Matters Hot Desk Fellowship with the Centre for Stories and was subsequently shortlisted for the 2019 Deborah Cass Prize for Writing. She is currently developing her first play, Stillbirth. Tinashe is also a political analyst who has appeared on various platforms providing commentary, including ABC News, SBS News, Channel 10’s The Project, and CNN.