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Counting Today’s Blessings: How Disappointment Inspired Me to Live in the Present

This week’s article was supposed to be quite different from what you’re about to read. It was supposed to be a story about how friends reunite after years apart and pick up right where they left off. There was supposed to be magic and beauty and perfection. Imagine two girls crying and running to each other from across the airport––that’s how this was supposed to be. The weekend was supposed to be filled with catching up on years of being apart and reminiscing on the past. The weekend was supposed to be filled with so many things but, of course, none of these things actually happened.

We were so close to making all of these dreams come true. Last week, when I brainstormed this article, I was prepared to write a magnificent, perfect article about patiently waiting for the moment to finally reconnect face-to-face once again. But of course, that isn’t what this article is about. Instead, I have a new narrative for you. But first, let’s start with some background.

During my junior year of high school, a foreign exchange student from Norway came to our school district. My high school is a tiny brick building in rural Iowa, so this was a big deal for the entire community. Ingrid, our beloved foreign exchange student, eventually became one of my best friends. By the end of her exchange year, we were spending lots of time hanging out. We had classes together during the day and played sports together at night. Throughout the year, we were constantly together and grew closer and closer.

You can imagine the sadness we both felt when her trip came to an end and she moved back to Norway. For a while we kept in touch, but each week our communication lessened. Being in completely different time zones on opposite sides of the world can make it challenging to stay in touch. Not only that, but Ingrid had her own life to return to.

My mom and I decided that we were going to save up for a trip to Norway the summer after my senior year. Not only would we be able to visit Ingrid, but we would also be able to visit the country of our Norwegian ancestors. Then May 2020 came and our trip was put on hold––COVID stopped the world, and therefore stopped our trip from ever happening.

In the Spring of 2021, Ingrid tried to make a trip to the United States, but travel rules were still strict. At this point, any communication between the two of us was nonexistent. There were no hard feelings; I was reminiscent of our time together, but knew that we were leading very different lives––some separation was expected.

However, that all changed at the end of September when Ingrid told me she was planning a trip back to Iowa. It was supposed to be a surprise, but she knew I was in college out-of-state, so she wanted to make sure I was there to see her. We were both so excited for the trip. We reconnected and prepared to surprise her host family and the rest of her friends from the community.

Each day closer to my trip home became a day closer to seeing one of my high school best friends. Finally, Friday came. I was at home for a high school football game and Ingrid was heading to the airport in Norway to be here the next day.

She came prepared––she had tickets, a vaccination card, and a negative COVID test. All of that just for them to tell her that she couldn’t fly to the United States until November 1. All of our preparation was for naught and Ingrid went home disappointed and delivered the news to all of us who were expecting her.

It was supposed to be a magical weekend of reuniting, but it turned into a weekend of disappointment. Although I was able to make the most of my time at home, when I woke up Saturday morning it stung to think that I wouldn’t be seeing Ingrid that day.

I was planning not to write this article at all, but I think it’s important to not get our hopes up––to realize that everything happens for a reason.

Ingrid may not have been able to come to America to give this story a happy ending, but it still has an important lesson. Sometimes we imagine our future to perfection–-to a standard we can’t attain. I did that by over-analyzing each and every moment of my weekend. Rather than being involved in the moment, I was thinking about the future. I find this theme in lots of places in my life. 

Instead of enjoying today, I often find myself imagining a better tomorrow or next week or next year. All of these thoughts keep me from realizing that the today I’m creating right now can’t be amazing because I’m stuck thinking about something that hasn’t even happened yet. This moment can be great, but only if I choose to make it that way. 

That means choosing to be involved in the present rather than imagining the future. That means giving my time and devotion to the people that are in my life right now, rather than imagining the people I may meet in the future. Life changes each and every day, but we should be thankful for the people and things we have now rather than constantly looking towards the things we will have some day. The things we have today are the things we used to look forward to, and yet we’re hardly giving them a second glance.

I’m not saying looking to the future is a bad thing––I’m all about being prepared––but try to be mindful of the things you already have. The entire week before Ingrid came, virtually all of my thoughts focused on her homecoming and the amazing few days we would have together, but this caused me to miss the amazing days I was already having at home with my friends and family.

Although Ingrid’s homecoming turned into a flop, I was able to realize that this wasn’t the end of the world. Because we thought she was coming home, the two of us began to reconnect in ways we hadn’t for nearly a year. Now we have the opportunity to maintain these connections and rewrite our story. 

We have the opportunity to be thankful for what we have right now––texting, calling, and social media––and briefly glance at the future to the day where we can finally see each other face-to-face once again. Until then, I’ll be living in the present and counting the blessings I have today rather than dreaming of the ones I’ll have tomorrow.

Brianna Strohbehn is a junior at Winona State University and a small-town girl from central Iowa. Brianna is studying English, double majoring in writing and applied and professional writing with hopes of someday becoming an editor at a publishing firm. When she isn't writing, Brianna enjoys thrifting, reading, exploring her new home in Winona, and spending time with family and friends.
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