At the time I am writing this, it has been almost two weeks since the murder of George Floyd. Yet, it feels like months have quickly passed by.
(A building is graffitied with “I can’t breathe,” George Floyd’s last words before his death.)
I am half Black and half Filipino/Chinese. Because I am ambiguously brown, I’m always terrified whenever I hear of another Black person dying at the hands of the police.
It reminds me of Treyvon Martin, Walter Scott, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Sandra Bland, all of my other Black brothers and sisters, and those in between.
This time, though, we are fed up. At a time where most of the nation is harmed by the pandemic, we are even more sick of this racism and brutality flying under our noses and going unseen. Despite these troubled times, I have felt threads of hope seeing my friends educate and support each other.
My Black friends are teaching about racism and its systemic origins. My Asian friends are striving to empathize with my Black friends. My White friends are using their privilege to get out and protest.
I feel like I have seen more cooperation and empathy about Black lives in the last week than I have in my entire life. I’ve seen more resources for educating people about racism than in my college classes that are dedicated to these issues. It’s beyond overdue.
Many people are scared about what they see in the news, but think about how scared we are being born into a society that wouldn’t want to trade places with us for even a day. Remember that we didn’t get civil rights, LGBT rights, or even taxation without representation without rebellion.
(Protesters walk with signs saying “BLM” and “Black Lives Matter.)
We aren’t just fighting for George Floyd. We’re fighting for the millions of innocent people we have lost to systemic racism, police brutality, and the prison system. We’re fighting to make a difference and we’re in the middle of history being made. We can’t stop now.
Get up, get informed, get your mask on, and donate to the cause!
On Monday, June 1st, 2020, Christian Mbanza was momentarily locked out of his car.
The 27-year-old grade-school teacher of Regina, Saskatchewan used an app to unlock his car. He waited for his phone to work for a moment, and when it didn’t, simply got out his keys. Nothing about the incident should have implied Mbanza was breaking the law when he was simply entering his own car, so why did a video taken by a neighbouring resident, captioned “Just happened on Keller ave watched the whole thing happen lock your doors!!” end up on the Greens on Gardiner Facebook group? Well, Mbanza is Black.
“If I was somebody with a lighter skin complexion, the results would have been different. I don’t think they would have automatically assumed that I was stealing,” Mbanza said in an interview with CBC. He went on to express that “I’m lucky that it just ended up on Facebook,” noting that things could have ended badly if he had lived somewhere else.
This seems to be a common sentiment in Canada. Many are tweeting variations of a 2013 Robin Williams quote in regard to the country: “You are like a really nice apartment over a meth lab.” The implication being that Canada is innocent compared to what goes on in the States. But anyone who believes Canada to be innocent in regards to racism is sadly fooled. Yes, Canada is known as a friendly country. But the truth is we wear syrup-sweet smiles to cover up our genocidal history and violent present.
Indigenous people occupied North America for thousands of years before European settlers arrived, bringing with them venereal disease, alcoholism, and business schemes. This weakened the Indigenous way of life, as they were not accustomed to any of this. It wasn’t long before the Indian Act was put forth in 1876, which was based on the premise that it was the Crown’s responsibility to care for and protect the interests of First Nations (the Indigenous peoples of Canada), when in reality it was largely concerned with the assimilation and “civilization” of First Nations. In 1883, residential schools were put forth as a method to further assimilate Indigenous children. These children were taken from their homes and enrolled in these residential schools, where they were forced to abandon their traditional language, dress, and lifestyle. More than 150,000 First Nations, Métis and Inuit children were placed in these schools and over 6,000 were killed, making the odds of dying in a residential school more likely than the odds of dying in World War II. Many survivors of these schools were subjected to verbal, physical and psychological abuse, which is a major cause of substance abuse and intergenerational trauma; this practice continued until the last residential school closed in 1996.
Stephanie Pierce graduated from high school in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan in 2018. It wasn’t until she enrolled in her school’s Native Studies course at the age of 16 that she learned of the severity of Canada’s treatment of Indigenous people. She recalls being shocked about the Sixties Scoop, which was a practice in the 1960’s that involved the RCMP “scooping up” Indigenous children from their parents and putting them up for adoption, usually to middle-upper class white families.
“We actually had someone who was a survivor of the Sixties Scoop come in and talk to us,” Pierce recalls. “She said she had no clue the true background of her adoption until the earlier 2000’s, and her adoptive mom didn’t know either.”
The survivor was eventually reunited with her birth mother at the age of 40. Until that day, her birth mother had no idea what had happened to her child.
“When her biological mom gave birth to her in a hospital, people came in – I assume the RCMP – and took her away, and basically said she was too unfit to be a mother.”
Taking Native Studies was a life changing experience for Pierce. Unfortunately, the class is optional and is only offered when enough students show interest, meaning that an important education often comes far too late – or not at all.
Modern Canadian racism might not be particularly evident to someone who hasn’t experienced it, but it exists all the same. As of 2018, the federal government reported that 91 First Nations communities (excluding those in British Columbia and those without access to drinking water at all) were under long term drinking water advisories. Indigenous people make up 4.8% of Canada’s population but were one third of the victims shot by the RCMP between 2007 and 2017. The tragedy of missing and murdered Indigenous women has been declared a national crisis, and yet a proper number cannot be estimated because Canada did not keep a database for missing people until 2010, but since 1980 that number is estimated to be in the thousands.
As evidenced by Mbanza’s experience, racism isn’t exclusively directed at Indigenous people in Canada. The black community makes up 3.4% of Canada’s population and 9% of police fatalities. Black people in Toronto are 20 times more likely to be shot dead by the police than people who are not black.
(Above) A mural in remembrance of George Floyd, by Regina teenager Zoe Stradeski.
As peaceful protests break out across the country and #blacklivesmatter trends across multiple social media platforms, it may appear that people are making meaningful steps towards change. However, this movement is more than a trend. Black lives and other marginalized lives need to continue to be listened to and protected going forward. Calgarian Twitter user @deborahmeb expressed her lived experience in a series of tweets.
“As someone who’s spent over 80% of my life in Calgary, experienced most of the racism I’ve experienced throughout my life in Calgary, I’m not only overwhelmed by the show of support this week, but I’m actually shocked.
Part of this shock is not actually appreciation but rather an indictment…It’s a ‘Where have y’all been this whole time?’ Before this week, FAR too many of you have been far too silent. I realize that before this week, I felt extremely alone in this.
If you are truly ready to change that, my gratitude cannot be fully expressed. If you will commit to care for black lives, fight for black lives, to do the necessary learning to value black lives beyond this current moment, you will be doing a noble thing.” She then goes on to “Implore you to stand up for Indigenous lives with the same vigour.”
Donate to The Bail Project, which provides funds to pay bail for those who have been arrested during the protests. You can split your donation between the 39 bail funds (including the Philadelphia Bail Fund, the LGBTQ Freedom Fund, the Community Justice Exchange National Bail Fund Network and the Mississippi Bail Fund Collective) by clicking here.
When I first received news that my campus would be shutting down and classes would move to remote instruction due to COVID-19, my initial fear wasn’t directed at how I personally would adapt to the change; rather, I worried how my dad would fare. I had been living at my university in Boston, which quickly became one of the hot zones of the virus; however, once it became apparent that I would need to leave the bubble of my university housing, I only worried about the possibility of catching the virus. Though it does seem a bit shortsighted in hindsight, I truly believed I would be absolutely safe from catching the virus. At the time, the news was reporting that younger and otherwise healthy people would simply catch the equivalence of the common cold and recover without issue; therefore, I shrugged off the prospect of becoming gravely ill in the event I would become infected. However, once I realized I would need to head back home, I began to panic.
Like many others, despite not being in the at-risk group for COVID-19, I have family members who are. I’m living with my family at home, and my dad is immunocompromised. Even simply coming home from school made me nervous. Parties were thrown every night, and since I lived in a popular upperclassmen-only area of campus, these parties occurred directly outside my front door. I was at the crossroads of wanting to enjoy the final days of my college experience and not wanting to put myself, and subsequently my dad, at risk. I even considered trying to remain on campus or staying with my boyfriend’s family to avoid any chance of passing on the virus. Neither option would prove particularly feasible, and on top of that, my parents wanted me to come home so I could maintain a sense of normalcy.
My family is doing its best to act like we have the freedom to move around, but our need to be hypervigilant reigns supreme. My parents go shopping once every two weeks when the supermarkets open in the morning. We wear masks every time we leave the house to go on walks around the neighborhood. I’ve been keeping connected with friends via messages and video calls. At first, I found this to be a suitable substitute for actually living on campus close to my friends at all times, but lately, I’ve been feeling more and more antsy and fidgety. I have felt completely lost within my own thoughts for what seems like hours every day. The one time I got some reprieve when I drove to stay at my boyfriend’s house for a few days, I never left the car until I was at his house and reinstated my entire quarantine routine while there. When I returned home, I quarantined inside my bedroom for a week (with my parents placing food outside my door that I ordered by calling our home phone). My parents will crack the occasional joke about paranoia, but we understand that it’s something we all have to do in order to keep my dad safe.
[Each of us has our own personal mask in my family. I got the groutfit one.]
It’s been difficult, to say the least. When I see friends posting on social media about going grocery shopping, I feel a pang of jealousy — my parents don’t allow my siblings and me to go to the store with them. I got plenty of messages like “Oh, that’s stupid!” when I documented my in-room quarantine to my Snapchat streaks, but it wasn’t stupid in my household. Sometimes I want to hop into my car and drive to the local hiking trail or shopping center just to get out of my head for a while, but I know that I shouldn’t. Maintaining safe quarantine practices isn’t all that essential for me, but it could be literally lifesaving for my family. I still can’t help those feelings of lamenting having to be so tightly-wound from sneaking in, though, no matter how much I know they are selfish.
Whenever I get caught up in jealousy and a weird new-age type of FOMO I thought I had left behind at college, I find people in similar situations to mine. One of my best friends from childhood is severely immunocompromised and, for months, found themselves unable to leave the house just to take a walk. Many of my friends live with elderly family members and have been more worried than myself. Some people I know have even caught the virus themselves, know people who have caught it, or have come in contact with someone who caught it. I also know some people who are in the exact same boat I am with an immunocompromised member of the family.
In all honesty, it’s been a tough time for everyone. That being said, hearing how I’m not alone in my fears has made it a lot easier to handle. If I need to, I can call up a friend who understands my frustrations perfectly and just vent for an hour without feeling guilty. My support network has truly strengthened during quarantine, which was something I was not at all expecting when I said my “final” goodbyes to my friends before beginning the long drive from Boston. My friends and family have been there for me in a way I’m eternally grateful for, especially given that this has really challenged how close we are!
[My beloved Google Calendar even has some standing friendship dates!]
Whereas remote learning was, pretty objectively, absolutely terrible, remote socialization has been lovely. People who I hadn’t seen in a while and had accidentally fallen off my radar (sorry!) due to my hectic pre-COVID day-to-day life have become my close friends again. I’ve been more inspired to reach out and initiate conversations, something I have always struggled with, due to the fact that there are no longer any real ramifications. After all, who is going to be too busy to video call? We’re all stuck here with too much time on our hands! And no one has lamented me being more active on social media; in fact, I’ve started commenting on posts of people I haven’t seen since high school who have found themselves elated to reinvigorate our friendships. Navigating and mastering social media to stay happy definitely had a bit of a learning curve for me at the start, but it’s allowed me to focus my energy on the people I really care about and fully nurture those friendships.
This isn’t to say that everything has been rainbows and sparkly unicorns and I love having the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to stay home and relax. I’ve been terrified to leave my house, but I am equally afraid of the ramifications that come with staying inside. I miss my friends dearly and wish I could say I am too busy rather than too bored. That being said, the resilience I’ve seen in everyone, including myself in a way I don’t feel uncomfortable bragging about, has been inspiring. Quarantine has had its fair share of negative side effects, but I think it has presented a feeling of “we’re all in this together” that I have never felt before. When I chat with my friends for the umpteenth time about my problems and see them listen intently, it makes everything feel just a little bit better.
Wars are won in one of two ways. Either you knock off your component with sheer brutal force or you both opt into peace treaties and compromise. But contrary to popular beliefs, we are not in a war. The Coronavirus is not an enemy we can fight with the usual tactics; like with guns or blowing things up.
The success of a nation has always been directly related to the strength of their leaders. However, the very presence of the novel Coronavirus has changed the word “strength” to “compassion”. Due to the fact this virus is not something we can blow up and obliterate, tactics that countries such as Russia, China, and the United States are used to, we have been challenged with thinking outside the box. This is a concept these three countries have a difficult time with. Nonetheless, the challenge then became “how do I alter my plan of attack?”
In my opinion, the very reason these next three countries were able to combat the virus so effectively is that they are able to think not based on the needs of security but the needs of their citizens. New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, Chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel, and Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-Wen all quickly understood there was only one way they could fight the spread of COVID-19: compassion. Each country understood that in order to gain success over the virus, you needed to understand these three truths: act early, tell the truth, and lead with compassion.
Each of these three countries all had early plans set up at the first sign of Coronavirus in their nations. By March 26, New Zealand Primeminister Jacinda Ardern implemented a four-level alert system to categorize and simplify the state of emergency her nation was in at any one time. By March 22, Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel had contact bans in place as well as mobilizing German troops to assist in the transition of normal to quarantine lifestyle. The country of Taiwan had an unusual advantage regarding the fight against COVID-19. In 2003, the country found itself handling an outbreak of the Swine Flu. This recent flu-like epidemic gave them an advantage in terms of planning ahead. They quickly understood the severity of the situation and trusted science in regard to their own decision making. It didn’t hurt that their vice president was Dr. Chen Chien-jen, a Taiwanese epidemiologist and politician.
The second reason New Zealand, Germany, and Taiwan have had success in the fight against COVID-19 is that none of these leaders tried to downplay the severity of the virus. They were upfront and frank about the uncertainty the future had for them all. However, one thing they did not let happen was an out-of-control manifestation that this virus was something larger than they could handle. Jacinda Ardern never let fear manifest in her country. Whenever she addressed her citizens, she spoke plainly but with confidence. Understanding that fear derives from the lack of understanding within a situation, she always explained why every action was taking place. Within five weeks, Taiwan’s government swiftly put together a list of 124 action items that the Taiwanese National Health Command Center (TNHCC) would execute. These actions included border control, travel restrictions, case findings and analysis, resource allocation, and spreading political and communicative decisions. By streamlining the democratic process of decision making and passing of bills, they have surpassed all the “red tape.”
Finally, each region understood that the only way to win a fight against an invisible enemy was to get everyone on the same team. This is where I believe that it is important to speak about the fact that these three leaders are all women. Globally, the countries hardest hit by COVID-19 have been led by males. They have all instinctively downplayed the situation because their first concern is not for the mass population but for their personal political careers. None of these three countries did that.
As soon as lockdown and halting of movement became the clear first step in stopping the spread of the virus, German Chancellor Angela Merkel understood the immediate concerns of her citizens and addressed them. As a human being, you need three things to survive: shelter, water, and food. Understanding what she was asking of her country, she tasked Minister of Food and Agriculture Julia Kloeckner to find the solution to the possible food shortage as well as face the issue of panic buying before it became present.
Taiwan understood their population’s major concerns were about their own safety. President Tsai asked all private and public manufacturers to immediately start mass-producing supplies such as masks for both the public and healthcare systems. She then united Taiwan under one name, “Team Taiwan.” Instead of bringing fear and separation by not having unified decisions, like the USA, Tsai simply and effectively unified her country in one little slogan. By unifying the countries, the actions they took were more accepted. Having gained the public’s trust, each step she took to move forward was met with optimism.
I do not believe that any country has done as well as New Zealand. In my opinion, New Zealand is the best example of how compassionate leadership can lead to positive, quick, and effective results. Much like Taiwan, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern knew that addressing her nation under one name would unify and connect her citizens. When addressing her country she would always end her statements with “Our team of 5 million.” She would approach the public confidently and with compassion, even taking the time to speak with children and answer their questions. She even held a press conference just to address children and explain why the Easter Bunny and Tooth Fairy were having difficulties navigating around social distancing rules. Her slogans kept spirits high within communities. She expressed the message of kindness towards one another, rather than hatred toward an invisible virus. By changing the focus from scary health concerns to “let’s help each other out,” New Zealand is now in the stages of getting back to normal.
The war with COVID is very simple. Those cities which are thriving and rebuilding their economies have leadership that puts the needs of their citizens first and above their own political likeness. They understood that within a state of emergency, their roles as president, chancellor, and prime minister are first and foremost to protect human life above political personal gain. In the words of our New Zealand friends: Be Kind and Stay Calm.
When I was younger, I was what adults would call a “voracious reader.” Not a day went by that I wasn’t buried in a novel. If I finished an assignment early, it was lunchtime or I simply had a free minute, I would pull my book of the week out of my backpack, flip to where one of my handmade bookmarks was slotted in between pages, and continue on in a little fantasy world by myself. I requested only Barnes & Noble gift cards from my family for Christmas and had a devoted bag just for my weekly library trips, which I would overfill with everything from manga to gossip rags to classic literature. I read anything and everything without discretion; I just wanted to read.
And one day, I didn’t.
I guess the decline was slow in hindsight, but by the time I was deep into high school it was evident: I just didn’t read anymore. I read what was required for class, but the passion wasn’t there and I had no motivation to pick up a book for pleasure at all. By the time I was in college, the only times I read a book outside of coursework were on long plane flights during which there were no real distractions. This brought the grand total of full novels I read for fun in about a seven-year stretch to something to the order of three. That’s how many I could have finished in a typical month as a child.
Every single new year brought forth that resolution to “read more” and each summer gave me a theoretical new wind to pick up and finish even just one book. And, of course, not a single declaration of “this is the day I become a reader again” actually came to fruition. It didn’t take long for me to become jaded despite still hoping I would one day be able to find my passion for reading again.
I was not shocked that I once again found an opportunity to read when I was kicked off of my college campus and quarantined within my home. But even that dream was quickly squashed when I found out that all local libraries were closed for the foreseeable future. I do have plenty of books at home, but my most prized ones I had already read (two of the novels I’ve read four times each) or hadn’t considered starting because they just didn’t pique my interest that much. While I did pick up a science fiction novel from my shelf, it only took about a chapter for me to realize I was not interested in the bland setting and unrelated storylines of multiple characters (I’ve always disliked that writing style). I relegated myself to yet another half-hearted attempt at becoming a reader that went nowhere.
[A snippet of my personal bookshelf, er, bookfloor]
The thing was, I still really, really wanted to read. I mean, it wasn’t like I had much else to keep me busy! My hectic schedule, from classes to multiple clubs to constantly seeing friends up on campus had come to a screeching halt; I had exponentially more downtime now than I had had in years. Fumbling around on the internet eventually led me to a way to access e-books through the library cards I already had (one for my local library at home and another for the one closest to my university), and once I downloaded that app I only had one final excuse left to not start reading. I still could just forget to get around to it, no?
Once the semester ended and I was officially done with classes, the website I had used for the past four years of college to track homework assignments had lost its purpose. This actually disheartened me a surprisingly good amount, as I had become weirdly attached to it after it practically single-handedly saved me from failing every class I took. I was so fond of this website that I decided against unceremoniously giving it up, and swapped the course subjects for categories of things I’d need to do that summer and didn’t include class periods. One such thing I added was a way to track my reading, something I’d previously used it for to track the chapters professors had assigned weekly. Now that I had nullified that excuse, I had to read.
Okay, I’m not going to pretend I dove headfirst into hundreds of novels and can now say that I’ve polished off half of the Library of Congress. However, I did actually start successfully reading for fun, which is a much less lofty and much more vague goal but a goal I finally achieved nonetheless. I finally have flipped the final page of Thomas Cullinan’s The Beguiled, which wasn’t my favorite in the end, but what it represented was so much more than just a mediocre Civil War-era thriller novel. I’ve moved my e-book endeavors on to two books at once: John Carreyrou’s Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup, a book that has been on my radar since I became engrossed in a podcast about the white collar crimes of Elizabeth Holmes and her company Theranos, as well as Henry James’s novella The Turn of the Screw, which has a forthcoming adaptation in the second season of The Haunting of Hill House on Netflix.
[The porch has quickly become my favorite place to engross myself in a book]
It’s not even about the quality of these books per se but rather about how they show me how I’m maturing. I feel better when I’m reading, sort of like one of those “self care queens” on YouTube. They give me a jolt of “wellness,” and some feel-good nostalgia. Reading brings me back to a simpler, less chaotic time when I didn’t have any adult fears and anxieties looming over my head. They remind me of a childhood when I did something for no reason other than truly enjoying the escape. And when I finished one book, the only worry on my mind was to pick which one to read next.
Two-thousand-nine-hundred-fifty-eight kilometers, the distance between Regina, Saskatchewan and Moncton, New Brunswick. That’s how many kilometers stretch between my mom and I during this time of crisis. I didn’t think the distance would bother me. I’ve lived on my own for almost four years now since I started college, only staying at home for a few weeks during the summer and at Christmas. However, I’ve found myself envying those going through the pandemic with their families…as crazy as it might be making them!
I’ve always kept in touch with my mom with daily texts and FaceTime calls a few times a week, but there’s something about a global pandemic that makes me wish she was here with me. It would be comforting. With such a threatening disease to the older population, I wonder if I am missing out on last moments with her. She is in her 60s, and to someone like her, the risks this disease imposes are just that much higher.
I also miss my furry friend and can’t relate to those improving their bonds with their pets with this extra time at home. The life of a cat is already painfully short and I can’t help but feel that I am missing out on precious time.
I look back regretfully on the month of March wondering if I had missed my chance to make it home to my mom and my cat. I had a flight booked for the end of April but as COVID-19 became rapidly worse, I soon got an email that my flight had been cancelled. The day we found out classes would be held online for the rest of the semester, one of my friends reminded me that this was a chance to reunite with my mom. I guiltily admit that I hadn’t even thought of that opportunity. Somewhere deep down I still thought all this would soon be over and I worried I’d be too far away from my university when things restarted. I also knew that my family home was filled with distractions and wondered how much work I’d be able to complete in the environment.
I would have only had a few days to pack up everything I had gathered during these last four years of school if I had chosen to go back to New Brunswick. The thought of a panic-filled packing session caused stress to race through my veins and in the moment, I just wanted to stay put. So much was still undetermined and I relied on the news to give me the updates I needed.
Flights being cancelled wouldn’t necessarily be the reason I’d have to stay in Saskatchewan. I soon decided that I would drive, aiming for the end of March when we’d get confirmation that our final exams would be online. Strangely enough, not flying home would almost be a good thing. I’d get to drive across the country, something that had always been on my bucket list, and I’d be able to pack more of my belongings than the airport’s strict suitcase policies would allow.
Again, things changed quickly on a day-to-day basis. By time I had made my mind up to drive, it was no longer an option. Both the United States border as well as those in the province of Quebec had been closed. There was no other way to New Brunswick. Though “essential trips” would be allowed, I had nothing to prove that I had New Brunswick residency, having changed my license when I moved away from my parents for school.
The border closures made it official: I was stuck in Saskatchewan. Luckily, my landlord was understanding and reassured me that I could stay as long as I needed. Again, I wasn’t totally disappointed. This was my home after all, and finally, it seemed like my questions had been answered: I knew where I’d be staying for a least a couple months. It’s hard to ever really know your future plans with how fast the situation is changing, but I had finally formed a temporary plan. I looked forward to the football games and concerts I’d be able to attend with my friends, finally spending summer in Saskatchewan for the first time in four years. Naïve little me did not realize that such large gatherings didn’t stand a chance with the pandemic.
I know that many people have been separated from their loved ones in this time due to the new social distancing regulations. However, I believe there would be something comforting in knowing that your parents are still in the same city as you. Perhaps you’d head to their house for a conversation through the window like those feel-good Internet videos show.
Moms are so important. They’re the ones who make us realize that everything will be okay when we’re still young and frightened about the unknown world around us. From bellyaches, to thunderstorms to losing a balloon, Mom is always there to hold us and to reassure us that everything will be alright. So, as the world has stopped and has been filled with fear and uncertainty, yes, my twenty-two year-old-self needs her mom.
Next time I’m with my mom, I won’t take my time with her for granted. They say that distance makes the heart grow fonder and I’ve seen a lot of truth to that since being separated from her at the beginning of my post-secondary career. Though you may have plans to see someone, you never know how they might fall through. When survival is threatened, whether on a big-scale for the vulnerable population or a lower-scale for those in good health, it’s comforting to be able to run to your mom for a hug. I can’t wait to see her again.
With the rise of COVID-19 over the past few months, ‘free time’ has become less of a rare occurrence. Many people have been laid off from their jobs or required to work from home, students have switched to online classes, and social events and gatherings have disappeared. With all of these changes, many people, including myself, have found that they now have more time on their hands to devote to their hobbies and other activities that would usually be pushed to the side. However, with this added amount of ‘free time’ comes a nagging pressure to be productive and to make use of the ‘free time’ that we now have available.
When scouring social media, I often see posts about how quarantine has provided people with the opportunity to write the book they’ve always dreamed of, to take an abundance of spring and summer classes, or to start a business. Even after studying all day, I still hear this voice in my head telling me that I shouldn’t spend the evening relaxing. Instead, I should be putting this time to good use and be productive. While these ideas of ambition and constant productivity can be lovely, they are not required. This is not to say that a person cannot aim to be productive or achieve goals during this time, because I am fully guilty of that. It is just to say that there should not be such high pressure to do so. Using this time in quarantine to better yourself or to achieve any number of things is great, however, you are not a failure if you choose to spend your time relaxing, binge-watching Netflix, or taking a lot of naps.
The truth is there is no right way to spend your time during a global pandemic. COVID-19 has created a lot of uncertainty and can be a source of stress for many people. Mental health is an area that many individuals struggle with and a pandemic, coupled with isolation, can cause people to spiral into a depression. As such, reinforcing the idea that people must be productive or else they have failed or ‘wasted their time’ in quarantine can be dangerous, harmful, and unhelpful, especially to people who are struggling with their mental health. A pandemic is a scary time and people are allowed to use their time as they see fit.
I can definitely understand the appeal for productivity in a time such as this. Many individuals attend school full-time or work a 40 hour/week job, which results in little time for projects, creativity, and goals outside of work or school. However, while many people may not have time for such endeavors in their normal lives, they may also not have time for relaxing and enjoying a time with fewer obligations. There is no shame in using this time to just hang out and exist. Your time does not need to be constantly used for production. Productivity can be great, it can be rewarding, and it can be a great cure for boredom, so long as you keep in mind that you are not a failure for relaxing and focusing on yourself as much as you need.
It seems that as the “yellow peril” strikes again and now, the Asian-American community has reverted back to the early days of racism and discrimination. Ever since the announcement of COVID-19 arriving in the United States, hate crimes average 100 per day with “at least 1,000 hate crimes incidents being reported against Asian-Americans” according to Democratic Californian Representative Judy Chu. Additionally, I don’t necessarily find it pleasing to hear our president using provocative language that incites opportunities to assault Asian-Americans when we have no direct relationship with the origin of the virus. I don’t understand and maybe I never will because ignorance itself is like a powerful religion.
On one spectrum we are the “model minority.” We are perceived as great American citizens who work hard, remain within the law, don’t complain about anything, and produce a cohort of offsprings with academic and career success. Then there is the perpetual foreigner perception that we “brought” diseases such as SARS and COVID-19 and/or that we steal jobs, are communists, etc. As idiotic as this sounds, I don’t believe I have encountered a marginalized group that is versatile with being praised and demonized by the public opinion. Yet, it seems as if that isn’t enough for people to stop instilling their anger and frustrations towards innocent groups of people. Is it so hard for those people to realize that we are all fighting the same enemy together? Why are we repeating history when we should be progressing from it?
On a daily basis, I often worry about not only my safety but my parents’ safety. Knowing that they are amongst the older group of first-generation immigrants, any abrupt health concerns can dramatically worsen their matters. Especially when the pandemic fades, I still have this eerie feeling that gaslighting will continue to traumatize our already tense community. If this is the reality that I and many others will live through, I sure do not want the future generation to experience anything similar to what we are enduring.
(the American flag)
Growing up as a multi-ethnic individual, I always thought the “American Dream” would be fulfilled through all the stereotypical characteristics of what a “good Asian” comprises. Growing up, I mesmerized about how I was born in a nation that was free of racism and discrimination and that I can live a life full of role models who look, act, talk, and relate to me. Growing up, I assumed that the “land of the free” was the greatest country ever until I swallowed the red pill. The truth hurts and as a Chinese Vietnamese-American, the truth has forced me to question the society I live in.
As pessimistic and cynical as I internally feel, I have accepted the fact that this is only the beginning. It’s a new beginning for us, where Asian-Americans both young and old must unite against the persistent existence of racism. This is the time to educate ourselves and hone our communication skills for the necessity of broadcasting ideas of progress. Once COVID-19 is eradicated, it is vital we plan and carry out events, assemblies, rallies, and conferences that enhance the empowerment of marginalized groups. With the enormous losses being shown in glimpses around the globe, I believe that we still have the capabilities to get through this; everything, especially this pandemic, takes major patience and commitment. While life is inevitably cruel and unfair, I think that as each day passes, I know there will be change. As Kobe Bean Bryant (1975-2020) once said, “Everything negative – pressure, challenges – is all an opportunity for me to rise” and for us, this new beginning as dark as it is is our opportunity to rise and never look back.
Lightbulbs and batteries are such commonly used household items, they are considered essentials. By purchasing the correct light bulbs and batteries, we can decrease energy usage and the waste we send to landfills.
A 60-watt incandescent light bulb is the traditional style but that does not mean it is the best; these bulbs are extremely inefficient and have a relatively short lifespan. The best option is an LED light, which uses 80% less energy and has a lifespan that is 25 times that of the incandescent bulb (Davis). While LEDs have a larger initial cost than incandescent bulbs, the savings in energy bills and the decreased need to continually replace bulbs make the swap more cost-effective over time. By switching your lights to LED, you can significantly decrease the environmental and monetary impact of your lighting. If you need more motivation, EnergyStar reports that: “If every American household replaced just one standard light bulb with a high-efficiency version, the United States would save about $600 million in annual energy costs and prevent 9 billion pounds of annual greenhouse gas emissions.” (Davis) The switch might feel small, but it makes a huge difference!
Rechargeable batteries are a more complicated issue. Simply buying and using rechargeable batteries does not make them more sustainable; according to Yale Climate Connections, a battery must be recharged 50 times before its impact is significant (Grossman). This is due to different methods and metals used for production, the energy used to charge batteries, and the different processes of disposal. For this reason, it is suggested that we use rechargeable batteries for highly used items such as remotes, cameras, and electronic toys (Schildgen). These items need new batteries more often, meaning the batteries will be charged many times, making the switch environmentally beneficial.
The appliances and products we purchase and use are fundamental to the sustainability of our lives. By making educated decisions about purchases we can decrease our individual economic impacts, therefore creating a larger cumulative decrease in energy use and product waste. Small items such as light bulbs and batteries are significant!
Throughout my life, I had never been that into fitness. I grew up dancing five days a week, so staying active had never been something I had to worry about. However, things changed when I started university. As much as I want to deny the existence of the “Freshman fifteen” I did start to notice a few extra pounds on my body as my lifestyle changed. I accepted the change and put a lot of pressure on my weekly yoga class to keep me fit!
I began working out in my third year of university. Between societal pressure to look a certain way, and the $100 I paid for the campus gym, I figured a few visits a week to the campus fitness centre definitely wouldn’t do any harm! I made at least two appearances at the gym every week, heading straight for the cardio machines to make sure I burned as many calories as I could. I didn’t focus on strength training, as I had no idea where to start, and feared the many judgmental eyes around the gym.
I continued going to the gym over the summer paying a reasonable monthly sum at the local “Fit 4 Less.” Again, I would constantly head to the elliptical feeling more and more satisfied as the number of calories I burned increased on the equipment’s screen.
In March, when the COVID-19 pandemic began to worsen in Canada, the university gym quickly informed students that it would be closing its doors. My heart sank as I got the email sharing the news. Where would all of my pent up energy go? I had gotten into a really good habit of going at least twice a week. What would I do to stay fit now?
While the first two weeks of quarantine resulted in my adopting the lifestyle of a sloth, I knew that I couldn’t stay healthy continuing such a routine. I began taking daily walks around my neighborhood. The fresh air made me feel much better and my Fitbit vibrated with joy as it noticed my movements! Feeling frustrated with my 10,000 steps a day goal that now seemed impossible to meet in light of the new situation, I changed the settings on my Fitbit so that my goal would be 5000 steps every day. The goal felt more attainable, and consequently, I felt motivated to reach it every day knowing it was something I could do with just a half hour walk.
Since the gym was no longer an option, I decided to open my own little fitness studio in my room! Though the only equipment I had was a yoga mat, I found the Internet had many exercises I could do with just that. I began to do an ab workout daily alternating between arm workouts and leg exercises to go along with it.
I found a Youtuber online named Pamela Reif who demonstrates exercises clearly and has many videos designed for beginners. She offers daily workout plans for those seeking a bit more structure and provides some innovative ideas for those with no equipment at home. No free weights lying around in your basement? No problem! She suggests water bottles as a replacement.
After two weeks of committing to exercise every day, not only did I feel healthier, I already felt stronger. Core strength had never been a focus of mine, but in the privacy of my own room, I felt comfortable struggling to do a simple ten rep exercise until I became a pro. Putting an hour aside every day also made me feel less lazy, and when I did put time aside for TV, I knew that I had at least been active for some time throughout the day.
The pandemic has taught me that I don’t need to invest in a gym membership to stay fit. The internet is filled with free fitness videos, and with enough discipline, you can combine daily walks and strength training at home to stay in shape! It’s so much easier to squeeze a ten-minute ab workout at home than to make your way to the gym. Instead of finding two times a week, in my formerly busy schedule to go to the university gym, I’ve found a way to incorporate a little bit of fitness in my everyday life. Furthermore, I’ve learned that staying active in order to feel healthy is much more important than exercise with the sole goal of losing weight. This pandemic has given me the chance to make a lifestyle change that has been feeling better about myself and my daily routines.