Author: Shreya Volety
2020. *Sighs* Alright, here we are.
A comedian I adore once said,
“A nineteen-year-old is never in her prime,
Hindsight is a gift,
stop wasting my time.”
Hindsight is a gift. And even while this year was being abysmally wretched, we continued living it. We didn’t stop because hibernation, while tempting, is not a viable option for human survival. And even the worst kind of living contributes to who we become.
2020 was about individual stories of strength, struggle and survival. 2020 was also about the human experience, the collective human experience.
We were isolated.
But not alone.
Which is to say, I was lonely but not alone in my loneliness.
HA. TAKE THAT, NOLAN.
The truth is, I’m stalling. The purpose of this piece was to try to document my experience of 2020. But who wants to relive this year?
Hindsight is a gift.
So I’ll stop wasting your time. Let’s go.
“City of Stars
Are you shining just for me?
City of Stars,
There’s so much that I can’t see…”
~ Justin Hurwitz, La La Land
One thing I imagine I will miss when I become older is the bright narcissism of youth. In January, things happened only to me. The charm of a new year heightened my sense of apparent individuality and freedom. I was finally familiar with the rhythms of university life and classes. There was a fest everyone was excited about, clubs just finished recruiting, and I was convinced that this would be the year. I was never more sure of myself, my friendships, my self-concept. I was disorganized, messy, not eating well, but content. Happy.
“Fly Me to the moon,
Let me play among the stars,
And let me see what spring is like on
Jupiter and Mars”
~ Fly Me to the Moon, Frank Sinatra
Nobody explains what it is about a concert in a student fest, that is thrilling. Because, after the first time, it perhaps isn’t.
But the exhilaration of that first concert,
When you’re with your roommates dressing up,
When you’re standing in a long line to get to the stadium and complaining about having to wait,
When you’re swaying to a song you’ve never heard of, in a language you don’t understand, by an artist you’re only vaguely familiar with.
But your friends are smiling and laughing, and maybe some of them are singing along, and you’re happy because they are,
And you take pictures before all your makeup runs down your face in sweat,
That thrill – is unique, it’s like dancing in starlight.
A lot happened that month – some relationships grew, some broke, some changed for the better, some for the worse.
We passed the exams we had to write.
We were a little tired. But it was fine. We were fine.
“Yeah it’s overwhelming, but what else can we do?
We’re fated to pretend
~Time to Pretend, MGMT
I was homesick, and tired. And I wasn’t really studying, but I didn’t think that would be the theme for the rest of the year. There were too many people around me all the time, and I thought I could use a break (not a 9 month long one though 🙂 ). And for the first time, I was more cognizant of beloved covid-19. A lockdown was announced and the university sent us home. All of us roomies huddled in our room and cried, because it was sudden, but none of us were really complaining. At least, I wasn’t.
Perfect timing, I thought.
I was home. Yay.
2020 was such a cruel witch.
“Hear my heart go ba-do,
Biddy-da-do, boo’d up”
~Boo’d Up, Ella Mai
I love reading. And I was reading a lot.
Book recommendation you did not ask for: Normal People by Sally Rooney.
I was optimistic. I started learning embroidery. I even started a new workout routine.
Being more productive was, after all, one of my 2020 resolutions.
Ha. ha. Ha.
“I think of what the world could be
A vision of the one I see
A million dreams is all it’s gonna take
A million dreams for the world we’re gonna make.”
~ A million dreams, Anthem Lights
I was feeling a little tired of staying at home all day. The paranoia was real, and I hadn’t even gone up to my terrace for a month. I missed my friends, but I was also comfortable at home. It was okay. I was used to going to sleep in a room I shared with five other people. It was getting harder to sleep alone. Meh, it was still okay. We were busy making plans for what we’d do when we’ll go back to campus, and how to decorate our rooms. I even decided on taking the lower bunk in our new room. There were plans for club lunches and trips to Pondicherry. It was all about what we’d do once we’d get back to normal. Normal.
Cruel Witch indeed.
“And so I wake in the morning
And I step outside
And I take a deep breath and I get real high
And I scream from the top of my lungs
What’s going on?”
~ What’s Up? , 4 Non Blondes
The concept of reality is deeply flawed. We all lived in this shared reality, but it isn’t real for each of us individually. Until it is.
When a parent tests positive for a virus that has scared the living daylights of the entire world, you don’t know what to do. When members of close family also test positive in close succession, you’re just numb. Helpless. Because here it is, the esteemed covid-19, and suddenly you realize, you’re being counted in the statistic they’re displaying on TV. It wasn’t horrible. It was exhausting, and frightening, but not horrible. I realized my neighbours were lovely people. I realized, in a way, I was stronger than I thought I was.
And just like that, everyone tested negative again.
P.S: Isolation sucks.
“You’ve got it all
You lost your mind in the sound
There’s so much more
You can reclaim your crown
You’re in control
Rid of the monsters inside your head
Put all your faults to bed
You can be King Again”
~King, Lauren Aquilina
New semester. New teachers. New friends. New connections. It wasn’t necessarily great. But it was different. I was glad for it. It was a strange semblance of normal. Our new normal.
“Wise men say, only fools rush in.
But I can’t help falling in love with you.”
~ Can’t help falling in love with you, Elvis Presley.
August was a blur. A happy blur. I really love Elvis and this song.
If August sucked for you, I’m sorry. Truly.
“Blackbird singing in the dead of night
Take these sunken eyes and learn to see
All your life
You were only waiting for this moment to be free
Into the light of the dark black night”
~ Blackbird, The Beatles
I started to think a lot. My world is technicolor bright, and it feels like everyone else is color blind. I had a lot of time to ruminate, and a lot of time to revisit things I had done. Hindsight is a gift. But when all you can do is think, and think more, it’s suffocating. I still hadn’t left home, and I was sick of my room. I was unlearning, contemplating, and relearning, but I was also tired and anxious. Everyone has their limits. 2020 was starting to push mine.
Tell us the reason youth is
Wasted on the young
It’s hunting season and this lamb is on the run
We’re searching for meaning
But are we all lost stars
Trying to light up the dark?”
~Lost Stars, Adam Levine
For the love of God, let this godforsaken year end. Seriously.
This is where the music stops. I don’t have the patience to be poetic anymore. I am truly exhausted. I am disoriented all the time. I don’t like classes. I don’t like holidays. I’m stuck in a limbo. I’ve realized that relationships and friendships and daughterships and siblingships take a lot of energy and effort. I have no energy left.
Unconditional love is so difficult to give and receive. I look back and realize that so many people over this year have loved me, silently, quietly, in their own way. I recognize how incredibly privileged I am for this year to have gone the way it did. I recognize how you can disappoint people repeatedly, but they don’t give up on you, because not all relationships are purely transactional. Some of them, just stay. 2020 has not taught me to love. But I think I’m starting to get it slightly. Hopefully, I will learn to love the people in my life, and myself.
I am not sure if 2020 went on in this exact sequence for you. Perhaps it didn’t. Regardless, I believe you’ve had people in your life too who have been there for you. I believe you’ve grown this year, even if it is inside the four walls of your house.
Whoever is reading this, I might not know you personally, or I might. Either ways, I wish you a rich 2021, a year where you grow and love and laugh and live.
JANUARY 1ST, 2021.
“We’re gonna get it, get it together, I know
I’m gonna get it, get it together somehow
We’re gonna get it, get it together and flower
We’re gonna get it, get it together I know
We’re gonna get it, get it together and flow
I’m gonna get it, get it together and go
Up and up and up”
~ Up&Up, Coldplay
Happy New Year.