Part IV of Excalibur’s 2020-21 wrap up: Then and now

(Image by Riddhi Jani)

TRAVEL BACK TO 2020-YOU


Jonathan Q. Hoidn
Communication Studies & Professional Writing, Pending Graduate
York University

REGRETS AND RETROSPECTS

This past year has taken such a toll on everybody that I don’t even know where to begin. What would I tell the 2020 version of myself?

Hey bud, it’s your best pal and your worst foe all in one: yourself. I’m writing this so you can get a feel for the future, or maybe possibly warn you of the weary man I am today. No, this won’t be a letter like last time — this is going public. Though maybe our first encounter will go public by the time you read this. Who knows. You’ll figure it out, but it won’t seem that way for a while.

At the start of it all you receive some hefty advice from your mentor-like professor: “Write your way through.” And for the love of all that is good in this world, LISTEN when important figures in your life give you advice. You (or is it I?) create so many fascinating ideas but fail to act on any of them. Sure, occasionally you develop them a little, but stories worth telling only become real when you sit down to write them — or so that’s what the inspirational writing Twitter accounts keep saying. Instead, your new copy editor job will allow you to utilize your against-the-grain antics for every editorial, your innate inquisitivity for a few features, and your wacky wit for some satire. But you only write when there’s a deadline to procrastinate — perhaps that’s a bad habit you should eliminate.

You’ll deal with multiple lockdowns and mental breakdowns. You’ll deal with living like that meme, where the dog is just sitting there while his house burns down. Your classes will go online, and just like the dog from the meme you’ll say, “This is fine.” Your grades will drop, but it’s fine, you’ll still pass (except for that one class). Your work shifts will drop, but it’s fine, the lockdowns won’t last (but they’ll be a pain in the ass).

You’re gonna learn that eating two Baconators and a poutine may not be the greatest idea for a skinny guy’s appendix. You’re gonna learn how trying some medications won’t be the solution for what can’t be fixed.

You’re gonna learn how to survive all by yourself, despite your entire house getting infected. You’re gonna learn why, although easier said than done, you shouldn’t dwell on what you expected.

You’re gonna learn where the pallbearers reside, and how a coffin is always heavier when a loved one is inside.

Honestly, your 2020 will not be a good time, despite all of those horrible, shotty rhymes. You can’t change your trajectory since your actions are set in stone. You see, I know your future, but I don’t know my own. There must be a lesson here, at the heart or the core. My only regret is I wish you wrote more.


Eric Rail
Communication Studies & Professional Writing, Hons. BA, Alumni
York University

DO THAT THING

You know those things you’re planning to do this summer, or even later this spring? Well, whatever it is, do it now. Need to go shopping “at some point”? No, not for toilet paper. Well, go now because you won’t be able to for a couple of months. That trip you planned for June, you might want to move it up by a few months. 

Do it now before the virus reaches our shores in sweeping fashion because it won’t be long until everything shuts down, from retail stores to national borders — heck, even provincial ones. 

And don’t let the relative lull of the summer months fool you or give you a false sense of hope, things are only about to get worse. Too many people will act like nothing is happening. Good thing you’re not one of them. As much as people may enjoy the entertainment provided by the US president, there won’t be much else to enjoy for a couple of months.


Maryam Nihal
Kinesiology, 4th year
York University

DEAR 2020 ME,

You have no idea what awaits you, and I mean that in the worst possible way. Through it all just don’t forget one thing: remember to be inspired. Because the burn out will hit and it won’t go easy with the punches. You will probably hit rock bottom a couple of times. And no, the homemade masks and aromatherapy won’t fix it all. It will just put a bandaid on a gunshot wound. 

So if you want to thrive, find new reasons to be inspired and manifest that inspiration into motivation. So when that devil on your shoulder tells you that nothing you do will matter in the end, you can tell it to shove it.

Also, you can’t avoid your flaws when you only have yourself for company. So please learn to start loving yourself but do not give yourself excuses. Look in the mirror and face up to the music then dance to its beat. It’s gonna be a bumpy ride but you have so many in your corner. Never forget that. And if all else fails just remember: it’s only a sim and Keanu Reeves is on his way to save you.

Love,

A slightly better version of you


Javeria Rana
English, 2nd year
York University

IT’S THE LITTLE THINGS

Throughout my childhood and into my teenage years, I would be snuggled up on the couch watching Disney, Nickelodeon, and YTV. Some honourable mentions are Victorious, Good Luck Charlie, Zoey 101, Wizards of Waverly Place, and iCarly. All these TV shows had characters constantly looking forward to homecoming dances, prom, graduation, sports games, and other high school functions. 

So I, too, began looking forward to such events and thought of them as ways of making the best memories with my best friends. I began to think that these final moments of high school were going to be the memories I will hold onto forever. I started dreaming and planning, the excitement increased as the days started to go by. 

However, all 2020 classes had their expectations fall short due to schools being shut down as COVID-19 began to take over. During this pandemic I realized that it is the little things which matter the most; driving to school with friends, waiting for the lunch bell to ring, sneaking in jokes during class, and running to the cafeteria before a line forms. I find myself missing these moments the most, not having a prom or graduation doesn’t hurt me as much anymore because we don’t need extravagant events to make the best memories. 

So, if I could travel back to February 2020, I would tell that version of myself to enjoy each moment a little longer and embrace every success and failure because times are ever-changing. The very fact that everything is temporary should make us all worry less about the future and live more in the present. 

One of my favourite characters, Ferris Bueller from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, said: “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” And this is exactly what I would tell my pre-lockdown self.


Brittania Fusca
Mathematics, Spec. Hons. BA, Alumni
York University

DEAR BRITTANIA,

Writing back to you in February of 2020, I am sure you would never believe that many of your wishes regarding social interaction would come true!

That’s right, you will be able to complete your degree without having to take the bus nor the subway to attend York University anymore. You will not have to tolerate listening to people make all kinds of noises with their noses, throats, and mouths even in the quiet sections of libraries. Even better, if you feel like studying outside, you won’t have to worry about anyone disturbing you by casually lighting up a cigarette a few feet away while you are in the comfort of your own backyard. In fact, you won’t have to put up with any person from outside your home for quite some time and yes, you will get to stay home all day and night with your cat. 

However, it will come at many costs.

These changes will not come about due to a joyous event, but instead will be the result of long-term hardships for many people. This includes their physiological health, mental well-being, and businesses. Things will be so bad that those noises that humans make with their mouth, nose, and throat will not only agitate you but will scare everyone within arms length as they mimic symptoms of a flu.

I’m writing to tell you that the reason why you get to stay at home all day will be because of a coronavirus named COVID-19. This virus will be declared a pandemic and there will be new variants that spread quickly and fatally. As a result of this virus, millions of cases will be reported worldwide and sadly millions from across the world will die. There will be vaccines, but of course, there will always be people who opt out of taking it. Unfortunately, letters from 2022 cannot be written to us in 2021 to explain their effectiveness or long-term effects.

So, what tips would I have given you?

In all honesty, start wearing a mask earlier. Other than that, you really only have to continue doing everything that you’re already doing. The people who laughed at you for washing watermelons before cutting into them will finally see the logic behind it. The people who thought you were crazy for using paper towels to turn on sink faucets, open doors, and flush toilets will soon come to realize that they should adopt your ways.

However, contrary to what you would have believed, you will be over the non-social aspect of the pandemic. You will miss going to class and spending time in the library. Speaking of the library, I must have telepathically told you to keep that topology book because it’s very intuitive and will make a great read throughout the year until its due date in the fall of this year.    

Even if you really were receiving this letter from the future, the fact is, I nor anyone else knows how COVID-19 will end and I certainly don’t know if you or anyone you know will be negatively affected. However, you are going to have to start taking the bus again, you will be sitting in classrooms to learn and in libraries to study.

Hopefully the mask rule might end the casual smoking!


EAGER FOR…


Michael Karpati
English & Creative Writing, 5th year
York University

IT’S NOT THE SAME ONLINE

I miss going to the movies,
popcorn in hand,
sitting with my family
in the darkened theater.
Streaming is not the same.
I miss seeing my friends,
sitting in the game room
playing Smash Bros and Mario Kart
and screaming when I lose,
or cheering when I (come close to a) win.
It’s not the same online.
I miss going out to dinner,
sitting in a crowded restaurant
with a constant buzz of people,
talking with my family
and having a beer or pop
and then an order of onion rings and a burger.
Take-out definitely isn’t the same.
I miss going to malls,
something I never missed before
or will again.
I miss browsing in bookstores
for an hour and a half
without buying a single book,
but always reading most of one,
knowing I’ll have to go back to read the rest.
It’s not the same on Amazon.
I miss long drives
through countryside,
going to see friends or family,
or a movie,
or to buy a book,
or just to drive.
Sitting at home is not the same.
I miss life,
my life,
real life,
because whatever the hell this is,
can’t be the same.
The world has changed in 2020,
and I doubt we can go back,
but maybe we can move forward
and find some semblance of what we once had.
Some semblance of life,
or perhaps, if we’re lucky, maybe the real thing.


Eric Rail
Communication Studies & Professional Writing, Hons. BA, Alumni
York University

BALLPARK BLUES

A year and a half is a long time to go without one of the most essential activities of the summer: a trip to the ballpark. Going to a live baseball game is definitely one of the things to look forward to if and when things ever go back to a semblance of what they were. Never mind the numbskulls who call baseball “boring” — they just don’t get it. 

Whether it’s the beer and hot dog stands, the perfect summer weather or the game itself, there’s always something to enjoy. From sunny afternoon matinees to evening games that end under a starry sky, it’s never a bad day at the ballpark. Cardboard cutouts in the stands served their purpose, but they’re just not the same. We need actual people there as much as we do on the field. The last two summers haven’t given us much of a chance to enjoy that experience, but here’s hoping that the future has more of those moments in store for us.


Achiaa Kusi
Interdisciplinary Social Science, 5th year
York University

FAMILY

Shifting to virtual communication raised concerns over the stability of creating, maintaining, and building meaningful relationships. Yet many innovative online services have made it possible for many to connect in a variety of ways and enhance many experiences. Whether visiting the CN tower, touring a campus or meeting your nephew for the first time, online platforms cannot replace the in-person experience we all long for. 

When my nephew was born in December of 2020, my family was ecstatic to have a new addition to the family. Although, amidst the pandemic, we knew we would not be able to visit nor hold him for the foreseeable future. With each Zoom and FaceTime session, we sorely missed the association of family and company. Therefore, I am looking forward to building new memories, connecting with family, and holding my nephew for the first time.


Lyniesha Bulze
Professional Writing, 4th year
York University

THE ROARING ARTIST

To counter hard times, the role of the artist becomes a vital part of endurance and I can think of at least three examples where music and art became an essential part to recovery from tragedies. This includes the Roaring Twenties, the 1980s, and the 90s.

During the Roaring Twenties, the world was readjusting to the post-war lifestyle and living off of carpe diem. The Blues and Jazz were both popular genres from that time and effectively captured the tone from that era with artists like Louis Daniel Armstrong and Ma Rainey creating the soundtrack for that era.

In the 80s and 90s, art and music were becoming more expressive and experimental in contrast to censorship and white collar, “yuppie” lifestyle. We saw the rise of alternative music like Grunge, Pop Punk and New Wave. 

Tragedy and hard times also gave birth to expressivists and artists like Zdzisław Beksiński. His art depicts nightmarish horror and influence from World War II. Although the art can be ghoulish and gruesome in some respects, it evokes a surreal and strange depiction of our reality.

Music and art from the past have elevated my expectations of current and future artists from around the world who have experienced their own hardships during this pandemic. For most of us, the lockdowns revealed all the things that we took for granted, like travelling to see distant relatives, securing time off for self-care, or interacting with friends we seldom see.

Knowing that history often repeats itself, I expect that we might witness the rise of artists reclaiming the canvas, music sheet, and nightlife. Perhaps I am too optimistic, but the roaring artist is what I am truly looking forward to. 

As we move out of isolation into social spaces, I wonder what stories we will bring, what lessons we will share, and in what ways we will convey them.


Anjalee Nadarajan
English, PhD, 2nd year
York University

FASHIONISTA FLARE

A few weeks before Canada’s first lockdown, a friend invited me to dinner with her, her boyfriend, and their friend. She insisted that I not dress up. Taken aback, I agreed uneasily. I wasn’t planning particularly on dressing up, but I also wasn’t expecting to be told not to dress up.

Now that the pandemic seems to be winding down, I keep thinking about that moment. Little did we know that February dinner would be our last chance to dress up for a while. If I knew then what I know now, I would have gone full glam, regardless of what my friend wanted. Instead, I minimized myself to accommodate someone else’s insecurities. I’m now angry at myself for not saying, “No, I don’t want to.” Because, honestly, what’s the worst that could happen? The pandemic has shown us all life’s precarity. What is someone’s disapprobation compared to global fear?

In the past year and half, I’ve become attuned to my own wants and desires. I’ve taken the time to care for myself, from head to toe. I’ve rediscovered my zest for dressing well. I’ve realized that I love dressing up for myself — my sartorial choices are not reactions to or indictments against anyone else.

What I’m looking forward to, then, is to live authentically in the company of other people. I look forward to saying, “I would prefer not to,” à la Bartleby. And I look forward to delighting in my maximal self. 


Part I: Zoom stories

Part II: Lessons learned

Part III: Skills and hobbies acquired

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