Life in the time of COVID-19 is different that anything we’ve ever experienced as a collective before. At the Department of Imaginary Affairs, we believe that the stories we tell ourselves about this moment will shape our individual and collective realities for years to come. We are creating a time capsule of letters, stories, and, and artifacts from this moment for our future selves, and we invite you to participate in co-creating it with us.
If you would prefer to be guided through this invitation and exercise via an audio meditation/visualization, press play. Otherwise, feel free to read our written invitation in the transcript below.
We are creating a time capsule because we believe we are in a moment, and that the stories that we tell about this moment will shape our individual and collective futures for years to come.
At a time like this, when our schools are shut down, community spaces are closed, restaurants are closed, many people are out of jobs, those that are working may have to put themselves at risk, and we are fighting a virus that we don’t yet completely understand – it can feel like we don’t have a choice. It can feel like things are happening to us. It can feel like the world’s problems are too big for us to solve. It can be anxiety-inducing and overwhelming. It can feel easier to look for escapes and distract ourselves entirely from what is happening around us. And yet, it is in these moments when there is the most opportunity for change. For new ideas to surface. For new leaders and leadership to emerge. It is only in moments like these, when our normal is disrupted so significantly, that we can see how broken things really are. Moments like these reveal the kind of change we need in the world. This moment has revealed the need for paid sick days so people don’t have to choose between their health and paying their rent. It has revealed the need to think collectively, rather than individually. That no one is safe unless everyone is safe. This moment has revealed that borders are man-made constructs and mean nothing to the diseases that spread across them. This moment has revealed how much we depend on schools and teachers to keep kids safe and occupied. This moment has revealed how much we crave social connection, but also how much of that we can achieve virtually. This moment has revealed how drastically air pollution decreases when everyone stays at home. This moment has revealed that our health systems cannot handle the worst case scenario.
This moment has changed so much of how we think, feel, and behave. And when it passes, we will have a choice. Will we go back to the way things used to be, or will we use it as an opportunity to do things differently? What has been your experience over the past few days? What has been the most challenging? What has been the most surprising? What are you doing or thinking about now that you never did or thought about before? What have you learned – about yourself and about the world around you – over the past few days?
The stories that we tell ourselves about this moment matter and will matter. This is because more often than not, we don’t remember experiences themselves, but rather the stories we tell ourselves and others about them. And as humans, we have a tendency to tell stories based on the peak moments and the end results of an experience. We forget how long something took. We forget the nuanced feelings that we felt at each moment. We forget the micro-decisions that we made that led to those peak moments or those end results, either positive or negative. Perhaps this is part of why history repeats itself. Because we forget how we got here. We forget the journey and the lessons learned along it, and end up falling into the same or similar cycles, rabbit holes, and ways of thinking or doing.
As an antidote to this, we invite you to co-create with us an artifact that will honour and memorialize the everyday experiences – physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual – of life in the times of COVID-19. A time capsule of sorts. A collection of stories that honour the spectrum of experiences – grief, joy, frustration, reflection, anger, hope, fear, exhaustion, renewal, scarcity, abundance, clarity, uncertainty, community, loneliness, purpose, confusion – that this moment has evoked in us. We invite you to capture these stories in a letter to your future self. How far into the future is up to you. A month from now? A year from now? A decade from now? It’s up to you. Write for yourself first. If you decide you don’t want to end up sharing, or would prefer to share anonymously instead, that’s totally fine. Write for yourself first.
What about this moment – what ways of thinking, doing, and being – do you want to preserve moving forward? What do you wish we will hold on to? What are the reflections and lessons you want to remember? What are the anecdotes from these past few weeks that you want to capture? What has felt the most unexpected or surprising for you? What part of this didn’t you see coming? And looking back, what part of this makes a lot of sense?
And then, once you’ve given yourself space to reflect on the parts of this moment you want to hold on to, take some time to think about what you want to let go of. What are the ways of thinking, doing, and being you want to shed?
Paint a picture for your future self. Tell them where you are, what you’re thinking, how you’re feeling, what you’re doing, how you’re spending your days, and what you think is yet to come. That last piece, imagining the future, may feel tricky right now, when so much is uncertain. But what better time to imagine a new world than when so much of the current world is falling apart and falling away? Think of the world today as a computer that we’ve denied updates for far too long. It has now become overwhelmed and has shut down. The good news is, it’s in the process of restarting and installing updates and we get to decide what those updates are. Channel your favourite fiction author, flex your imagination, aka your world-building muscle, and let yourself tease out the details of our potential future.
If you feel comfortable sharing the following information, we would love to better understand who is contributing to the collection of stories we are gathering. This will also help us think about how we might make participation more accessible to those who aren’t yet represented in our time capsule.