Cover: “Candid” Self-Portrait by Mel Spiridigliozzi
It goes without saying that the past six months collectively make up the catalyst of a transformative experience, and I don’t mean this in that optimistic cliché-ed sense of “personal growth.” We’ve been, quite literally, changed by circumstance, as our very livelihoods, worldviews, and even some values, were inevitably altered to accommodate tHeSe UnPrEceDeNtEd tImEs.
That being said, the purpose of this piece isn’t to harp on this all-too-common generalization of people’s trauma that has been floating around the media as of late, nor do I intend to highlight my own experience as one that somehow requires sympathy. Instead, I want to engage with some of the thoughts I had floating around the depths of my mind during these months. Hopefully, this will serve as a cathartic process, and I encourage others to partake in this forum of self-expression.
One of the first things that struck me during the first couple of months of self-isolation was how, particularly on social media, romanticism seeped into the collective consciousness despite the chaos and the tragedy that continues to permeate the folds of our society. Unfortunately, when I say “romanticism,” I’m not referring to those lovely serenades from my ever-so-crass tinder matches, but I promise that I’ll be getting into the topic of love later on. I will admit that the dating scene during quarantine is another topic worth exploring though, albeit in a separate article.
I noticed that, because people were faced with their own loneliness, there seemed to be a new-found emphasis on the individual, its experience, and its creations; not only was there a consistent output of new artistic content for people to consume, including music and photography, but there was almost a certain expectation for people to partake in this movement as well. In other words, because I had more time to myself, I continued to feel pressured to produce something, anything, even if it were for my own personal and creative development. To this effect, it seems as though we’ve grown to romanticise the very idea of being busy, so we strove to fill in the gaps in our schedule to suit our narrative. After all, what’s our excuse if we have all of this extra time right? I guess that’s capitalism for y’a; our sense of worth is intrinsically linked to how much we can produce and distribute.
Aside from dealing with these existential reflections, as well as with my abysmal level of schoolwork, I was faced with the changing implications of love and grief. I lost my grandmother in back in June to cancer-related complications, which arose due to the fact that she caught COVID-19. The experience of sitting by her virtual deathbed had me thinking about how heavily reliant we are on touch to communicate affection, intimacy, and to provide comfort. I was yearning to do all of those things during those final months, as speaking into a seemingly vacuous screen always seemed to fall short. For these same reasons, the grieving process at the funeral also felt…lacking, for a lack of a better term.
Therefore, like the rest of us, I find myself processing traumas without the tools we were accustomed to. So, forgive me for my lack of productivity and creativity. Instead, I opt to romanticize the idea of mumbling to myself in the confines of my bedroom like some Victorian mad-woman, who waxes poetry about her reality from within the yellow wallpaper*.
*This is an allusion to one of my favourite short stories by Charlotte Perkins Gilman called The Yellow Wall-paper. I highly recommend reading it!
By Mel Spiridigliozzi