F2020 by Avenue Beat, covered by Tomorrow X Together, plays softly from the living room TV in apartment 5088 (give this song a listen, it will set the tone for this article). My roommate, Kailie, and I sit on the bare floor surrounded, like elementary school students, by Crayola markers, glitter glue and ribbon. A week previous, we’d agreed that we wanted to make ‘dream boards’ for the new year, a resolution fueled by our absolute and utter fed-up-ness by the stagnancy we have all felt in 2020, while the speed of time paid no heed to our frustrations.
Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, the grocery store, pharmacist and even strangers waiting to cross the road chat furiously about how 2020 has been the worst year conceivable, characterised by masked faces, stickers on the floor of stores marking 6 foot separations, and delivery food. For me, it meant 12 months of separation from my family in South Africa and isolation in an apartment cushioned with Communication textbooks and Global Health policy papers and, at the beginning of isolation procedures, little else. Now, as I write this article sitting on my bed, to my left I see a home studio, and to my right, I see a guitar and ukulele, accompanied by my music stand and amplifier equipment used for live performance.
I think it is important, though, to discuss the flip side of the reality we have been living in 2020. It would be ungrateful to not acknowledge the privileged position I have been in, living in a luxury student living complex surrounded by expensive music equipment and a fridge full of food. Material things, though, are the least relevant things which I feel I have been blessed with access to, since the fateful day in March when the West Coast discovered they would be confined to their homes indefinitely. I learned how to read the Hangul (Korean) alphabet, brushed up on my Afrikaans fluency by watching terrible episodes of 7de Laan, and rediscovered my passion for writing, but most fulfilling of all, I learned how to record my voice and to post the fully-produced song covers on YouTube from the safety of my bedroom. Quite frankly, I have personally never felt more content to enjoy the cycles of my daily life.
Now, by telling you these things, I don’t mean to be one of those ‘toxically happy’ individuals who attempt to explain to you just how your discontent is nobody’s fault but your own, and how life is all sunshine and rainbows filled with chocolate and butterflies. Not at all. Honestly, these habits that I’ve picked up during my time don’t help me to get better grades, to improve my fitness or to earn more money, and some would consider them a total waste of time because they are unproductive. Rather, I think the contentment I’ve been able to find in quarantine life is because of the chaos that an election, a life-threatening virus and online college have brought. Because within these meaningless hobbies, there was a stillness that allowed me to shut out whatever was on the news and in social discussion, and remind myself truly what I want for my life when society returns to the state it was in a year ago – a vision that I didn’t have when I took for granted the ability to go to a store without wearing a mask.
Oprah once said, “When you don’t know what to do, do nothing. Be still.”
What’s the point of me telling you, reader, all of this? Well, I suppose the point is for me to remind you that sometimes the things, tasks, habits etc. that others deem as unproductive are the most meaningful. Not because they would lead one to some sort of epiphany about the meaning of life, but just because of the stillness they bring. And sometimes, stillness is all that’s necessary.
By Tali Sulcas
Sophomore at Arizona State University
Kaplan International Pathways Student Ambassador
Hugh Downs School of Communications (B.S., Communication Inquiry)
School of Human Evolution and Social Change (B.A., Global Health)