Wearing Pyjamas to School, Elisa Nguyen (Fourth Year; double major in psychology and PWC) 

“You do it!”

“No, you do it!” 

It was a pre-pandemic evening, and, through a somewhat delirious session of bantering, my friend and I dared each other to do the most unruly, eccentric, and bizarre thing we could think of: wear our pyjamas to school. We were 20-year-olds in professional programs, not to be confused with children wearing onesies on “pyjama day.” Still, the idea of sporting a unicorn onesie to a respectable school sounded like the purest form of self-actualization (if being labelled “weirdo” could be an indicator of fulfilled potential).

“I go to the University of Toronto! I have meetings with my professors!” I exclaimed. “Well, at least you’d make a strong impression,” my friend rebutted. The exchange ended with a compromise. We’d wear our pyjamas to Second Cup, the nearby cafe where we planned to study. This was not the same as wearing pyjamas to school, but it was still unusual enough to fill us with joy as we laughed at our embarrassment.

When the world went into lockdown, going outside wasn’t an option unless breaking laws and contracting the coronavirus sounded appealing

I was attending an online class, sitting in my desk chair with my feet propped on my bed. I wore my brother’s faded Whistler t-shirt and blue pyjama pants covered in butterflies. Meanwhile, my professor discussed sociolinguistics, and the class analyzed the weekly reading. 

When the butterflies on my pants kept distracting me from the lecture, I was suddenly struck by the strangeness of my circumstance and confused by the sense of normalcy that had veiled it. Was I genuinely wearing my pyjamas during class? What happened to this being the most unimaginable thing ever? Yes – it was online school, my video camera was off, and I’m sure the majority of my classmates were sporting similar attire – but as I sat there, dumbfounded, I realized that “strange” and “normal” were two sides of the same coin and that my distant dream had just come true.

Dusty $1 Vinyls, Sherene Almjawer (Fourth Year; double major in CCIT and PWC)

The needle hit, the vinyl spun, and Debussy’s “Clair de Lune” played out through the speakers of my new $45 Victrola record player. I stared affectionately at my collection – if you could even call it that – of five different records, all of which were a combination of the same few composers. 

Did I look stupid rummaging through the vinyl section at the thrift store? Or were the older customers watching me with smiles on their faces, glad that the youth were enjoying what they believed to be the best era of music? Were the other 20-somethings laughing at me behind my back when I picked up yet another classical music record? Or were they laughing because I was another one of the basic girls who wanted to feel the nostalgia of an era they were never a part of? For the sake of my sanity, I assumed the answer to all of it was no. 

Maybe investing in a record player and a couple of vinyl records was my brain’s subconscious way of convincing myself that it isn’t 2020. Instead, I’m sitting in the cheap seats of a Debussy performance. No murder hornets, no crazy man that hoards tigers, no WW3 threats, and no stress over what I’m going to do once I graduate and can’t deny my adult life any longer. Just me, Mr. Debussy, and the scratching pauses of the record player.

Urge to Write, Paige France (First Year; Life Sciences)

Quarantine has exacerbated my already lonesome countryside lifestyle, involving acres of open fields and an absence of internet access and human connection. Like looking out the window in a restless car ride, I searched my imagination for a story of love and the challenges of losing it, the very thing that was reminiscent of our isolation—losing relationships unexpectedly and without solace.

For some, isolation elicited the need to cope through creativity. For me, it was the urge to write a novel—a midnight revelation that integrated me into the intimate world of literature, archetypes, and parallels. I raced home from work to allow wisteria to grow in my mind, connecting parts of a plot to elements in nature, harnessing, and becoming seduced by the emotional power of literary indulgence. I entered the idyllic world of middle-of-the-night inspiration, typing out the lyrical whims strung together in my mind, sentences reading as melodic ballads after dusk.

My novel played out like a movie. Writing became an outlet to break from the pains of reality, a companionship allowing me to dive into the realm of creativity as I prepare for the next chapter of my life as a UTM freshman.

Just Dance, Vania Abbasi (Third Year; sociology major, double minor in political science and anthropology)

Initially, I remember telling myself to utilize all the free time I had during quarantine to form healthy habits, work out more often, and try to become the best version of myself. The urge to do so did not last too long, unfortunately. Soon enough, I ran out of motivation and began to spend my time rather unproductively. 

It was daunting to see my iPhone alerting me that my screen time was going up rapidly every week. The free time I envisioned to be a blessing in disguise became bleak, and my routine soon consisted of a whole lot of nothing. 

One night, I walked into my sister’s room as she was setting up Just Dance on her laptop. Desperate to get some sort of workout, I joined her. It is still unclear to me how many hours we spent playing that initial night, but neither of us could feel our legs by the end of that dance session. 

Maybe it was the rush of endorphins, but despite all the uncertainties in life, at that moment, I felt content. I seldom remember skipping a day of Just Dance since that night in May. It is relieving to know that during times of stress, I can start the music and drown out the noise of life.

A Running Potato, Jennifer Schneider (Second Year; double major in CCIT and WRI)

In a world of couch potatoes and sports nuts, I considered myself a walking potato. Since 2017, I have failed at my new year’s resolution of regular exercise. Something more important, like binge-watching TV shows, always came along. 

When I moved back to Mexico to quarantine with my family, my parents had become fitness junkies, their immune systems taking center stage. So, with the help of social pressure, I turned on the treadmill and began running. My legs lagged, my breath came out in pants, and I choked every time I took a sip of water. After a week of running every day, I began complimenting my exercise routine with YouTube fitness videos. A month later, I left the treadmill altogether in favor of the almighty yoga mat.

My arms turned to jelly, I re-sprained my traitorous ankle, my stomach toned just a tiny bit, sleep came easier, my height grew, and five-minute meditation sessions helped me get through yet another day of social distancing. 

While enjoying my YouTube gym membership, I watched a video that claimed happiness couldn’t be an eternal state, but you may seize the feeling by purposefully doing things that make you happy each day.  My anxiousness takes comfort in allowing myself to do what makes me happy. 

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