By Madison Pawle
And then jasmine, surprising me as I round the corner, running, one afternoon in September. Soft white fists & low hanging scent, heady and so bright it is almost opaque.
Time with you was like this: hours leaking into days that blurred and piled, becoming weeks that thickened into months, and then—suddenly!—it was spring.
If I’m truthful, the jasmine is all I remember of that day. The surrounding details I arrive at retrospectively—apropos of my afternoon exercise habits and my vague knowledge of the seasons; the blooming jasmine meaning spring.
(Breathe in, and out. In, and out)
Notice the newly green trees, their shadows playing on bitumen. A lone magpie on the grass, warbling to the sky. The twang of a basketball bouncing off a ring in a nearby backyard. Cars rushing along Murray Street. Curry simmering somewhere, my breath heaving, salt sweat on my top lip.
Attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity, writes Simone Weil, attention is prayer (2003, p. 116). That’s it, that’s why I’m telling you about the jasmine: I hadn’t been paying attention.
Yes, true, I was looking elsewhere—out into the world sagging and spilling over its own edges, its cruelties sharply in focus, collective focus—and yes, true, this was necessary. But I’m thinking of Robin Wall Kimmerer (2013) when she speaks about attention to the living world as responsibility, the beginnings of reciprocity. I’m thinking about my perception of time, how dependent I’ve become on the temporal markers of late capitalism, and I’m wondering, how much have I missed? Miss?
I’m thinking about presence, a way of telling you that I was here and paying attention, pledging my accountability to this moment I am living in. Presence being a form of devotion and devotion being the amorphous heart of any prayer.
Kimmerer RW (2013), Braiding Sweetgrass, Milkweed Editions, Minneapolis.
Weil S (2003), Gravity and Grace, trans. E Crawford & M von der Ruhr, Routledge, London.
By Matthew Galic
First of all, how could you? We trusted you, and this is how you repay us? It feels like you went past in a blink, yet somehow you still linger in everything we say and do. It hardly seems fair that we need to live with the consequences of your random desire to upend the world, but if there is one thing you have taught me over this past year, it’s that things are never fair—you’ve shown that to many.
I suppose I’m somewhat biased against you though—something I have to admit. Besides the anger I felt at every other evil scheme you concocted on the world stage; you also ruined every plan I had for the near future. I was supposed to be going on two consecutive exchanges abroad. That obviously didn’t happen, so thanks for that. In the wake of that disappointment, I found myself struggling to fill the gaps of my uni schedule last minute in a desperate attempt to finish my degree in a somewhat timely manner. Again, something that isn’t going to happen. I could go deeper, but I have to say it’s really not looking good for you buddy.
I know in the grand scheme of things, I’ve been incredibly lucky. You’ve kicked so many people around the world into dirty gutters and off of jagged cliffs, that I have to remind myself how fortunate I am that I managed to safely escape your massacre. That didn’t make watching in shock through the window as you continued your reign of terror over everything and everyone I held dear any less horrifying, but it’s good to think of the positives.
Despite everything, I do feel a little bad for you. I’m sure you never intended any of this, you just happened to be the one holding the wheel when the engine burst. I hope that one day I’ll be able to forgive you, to look back on what happened in a less biased manner—when my anger has dissipated, and my life has stabilised again. I’ll come to realise you were just as much a victim as the rest of us, and that maybe some of the things we experienced were our own fault—a consequence of a complacent society failing in the most basic of human rights and health processes. But that’s too difficult to think of for now. It’s much easier to just blame everything on you.
So, with that being said, I’m going to subdue my irrational anger towards you and ask a selfish request. Please be our scapegoat for just a little bit longer, at least until we sort ourselves out. I’m positive we are on the precipice of a brighter future, so if you could just hold on a little bit longer, I promise it will all be worth it.
By Nerissa Butt
For me, becoming isn’t about arriving somewhere or achieving a certain aim. I see it instead as forward motion, a means of evolving, a way to reach continuously toward a better self. The journey doesn’t end. ― Michelle Obama (2018), Becoming
2020 was serendipitous.
I learnt to be alone,
to think alone,
to heal alone.
There were tears, deep sadness and regret.
Tears for those who died, and for those who lost family and friends. Tears for being trapped inside what seemed like a cage.
Deep sadness for what was. Sadness for the veracity of this world. Sickness, racism, intuitionalism, compliance, pollution, power—it never ended.
Regret for not learning more, loving more, giving more, creating more—living more.
2020 felt like we were deprived of feeling whole. Or has wholesomeness always been our illusion?
It was tears, deep sadness and regret that propelled my metamorphosis. I am now healing my body, my mind, my soul.
For the first time I truly look inwards, listen to quietness, embrace stillness, learn, invest in my health, my mindset.
In 2021, every day I meditate, I sing, I dance, I learn, I love, I give, I create.
To keep balance we must keep moving, evolving, rebuilding towards a better life, a better world.
Obama, M. (2018). Becoming.
By Sarah Hurst
I think it’s fair to say you are no one’s favourite year. You really were quite the shocking introduction to the new decade. I imagine there were a lot of sighs of relief when, on 31 December 2020, the clock finally clicked over to 12 am. Obviously the hardships and troubles that haunted us in the previous year didn’t just evaporate when the 2021 calendars were brought out; the effects of what has happened will continue to bleed through the future months. Because of this, I have decided I won’t focus on all the negative aspects about you (although there are plenty I can say). Even though you bombarded the world with obstacle after obstacle, it created an environment that allowed for new, beautiful growth to shine through.
I am not the most social person, so at the beginning of quarantine I thought I would be fine, but by the end of the year I found I was craving social interaction like never before. I spent more than half the year home alone; once people were able to start going back to school, I found myself feeling isolated as I was the only one in my family and out of my peers that had a 100% online from-home experience. It honestly feels like I haven’t been to university at all—I’ve just jumped from first year to third year in the blink of an eye. But hey, at least I’ve saved money on petrol.
What I’ve learnt from you is that not everything will go as plan; you cannot control the world around you, but you can control how you react to the world. I learnt how to adapt, as even though things weren’t going my way, at least they were going in some direction. The world was trying it’s best to keep moving, so I might as well keep up.
Even though you are absolutely the worst year I have lived through thus far, you will always hold a special place in my heart. Saturday morning around 1 am—8 February 2020—was the day when I got into a relationship that really was my saving grace. This relationship has been the easiest yet also the hardest thing I have ever experienced. Falling in love over Facetime isn’t the smoothest thing to do, especially when the other person only lives ten minutes away. Having to develop and strengthen a relationship without getting to see each other certainly came with its challenges, but now I can proudly say that we have overcome them and are now getting ready to celebrate our one-year anniversary.
So now I must look on from you and focus on 2021 and all the amazing opportunities that are coming my way. I am willing to give you bitter thanks, but I would be lying if I said I wasn’t one of the people who let out a sigh of relief on New Year’s Day.
By Vania Octaviani
You were the creature that lurked in the corner of my bedroom whenever I turned off all the lights.
You were the boys in primary 6 who gave me the nickname Clown.
You were the cancer that inhabited my father’s lungs and sucked the life out of him.
You were the silence that followed all my pleas to find something worthwhile in my life.
For many months, the floor-to-ceiling laminated glass next to my bed was my only window to the world. The only human connection that I could get was ironically from a machine. Anxiety was dancing in my head and thriving off my fear.
In times of despair, hope is like the laughter that erupted from my mother, my sister, and I as we laid on my bed after the funeral, for I thought that I would be unhappy for the rest of my life. In Just Kids, Patti Smith reflects on her early days as a struggling artist and she suggests that laughter is an essential ingredient for survival (Smith 2012, p. 104).
I started being grateful for the roof over my head and the option to turn on the light whenever my intrusive thoughts took over.
Grateful for functioning limbs to exercise and the motivation to nourish my body.
Grateful for a large pan of pizza that I could still afford from Uber Eats.
Grateful for the drive to create amidst the chaos that is continuously unravelling in the world.
Grateful for the silence at dawn for it deafens my inner saboteur and realigns my distorted self back with the universe.
But I have also learned that silence can be the death of us, for it has encouraged the destruction of our planet. For it has killed countless of innocent lives for as long as human civilisation has existed. For it has divided the world into black and white.
I have been going to the park more than usual. I have learned that humanity should be one with nature in order to connect with their inner being. Now I think twice before buying my cosmetics, regretting the hundreds of dollars that I wasted in the past thinking it would transform me into Kylie Jenner. To deconstruct the American dreams that I have wished for all this time. However, it was never designed for me to live.
Had you not happened, 2020, I would still be living in a simulation. A lot of us would be. You were never the disaster. We are.
So here I am, taking initiative. Presenting myself as a listener to the unheard and sharing fragments of my true identity. Hopefully I can do my best to shout it out to the world.
Smith P (2010) Just Kids, Bloomsbury Publishing, London.