My Unhelpful, Unproductive Lamentations

Disappointed by 2020, the year of everything being cancelled? Read on to feel seen.

I’m well aware that society has spent the last few months living through the COVID crisis, but I can’t be the only one suffocating under the chokehold of an existential one, too.

It all comes down to one whirlwind of an afternoon in early March where I was wrapping up my life and sealing the lids on each compartment. I’d found a new housemate to take my room, managed to locate my passport in the cesspool that is my bedroom, and had just left my final day of work. I kid you not I was one foot out of the office door when my phone notified me of an email from Monash University explaining that they’d made the difficult decision to cancel the semester abroad in Prato (ITALY!) due to the pandemic.

I for one did not see it coming, despite the influx of texts I’d been receiving questioning whether it would go ahead. This might not be a great time to admit that I was, at one stage, in a bit of COVID denial. Is my privilege and ignorance showing?

I can see the Betoota headline now – ‘Automated Sicilian Airbnb Reminder Email Leaves Quarantined Wealthy White Student Inconsolable’, or something along those lines.

Anyway, I’m standing there staring at the email on my phone, completely gobsmacked, and I’m almost ashamed to admit this but I honestly pretended I didn’t see it and carried on with business as usual.

Of course when I rocked up to my family dinner shortly afterwards there was a smorgasbord of opinions and suggestions about how I should deal with the abrupt cancellation (let’s not forget that my flight was meant to be leaving in a week).

As you can imagine the days after that were one extended downward spiral, a not-so-delicate unravelling of all the neat little bows I’d tied up earlier.

This leads me to the – I’m sure much anticipated – existential crisis where I began to question every facet of my life and its value, which of course lead to unhelpful nihilistic conclusions. It sounds absurd but I’d started googling grief through the lens of lost experiences. I was trying to understand my declining mental health in the context of a global pandemic, and also the abrupt denial of greatly anticipated new experiences: all with an acute awareness of my class privilege. I can see the Betoota headline now – ‘Automated Sicilian Airbnb Reminder Email Leaves Quarantined Wealthy White Student Inconsolable’, or something along those lines.

The thing is, I’d actually consider myself luckier than so many of my friends who’d only just started to sink their teeth into exchange before it ended all too abruptly only a few weeks in. Somehow doesn’t stop me from feeling sorry for myself, though.

I’d like to link this to some sort of profound assertion about the trials and tribulations of negotiating our privilege in the face of an actual global crisis, but publishing an article about my FOMO from a summer in Tuscany hardly puts me in good stead to do so.

So, if you asked me at this point how I’d like to turn back time, selfishly I’m imagining a world where everything in 2020 went to plan. I’m a lobster-red (Polish genes wouldn’t marry well with the Tuscan sun), wine-drunk, pasta-stuffed exchange student whose biggest concern is whether ordering a fourth Aperol Spritz with dinner is socially acceptable.

To be frank it’s a disgustingly indulgent fantasy in the face of such global devastation, and I’m sure you’d expect some kind of weak rationalisation but I genuinely don’t have one. I’m slowly coming to terms with the tension between allowing myself to feel disappointed, and  acknowledging the futility of this entire emotional experience.

I’d like to link this to some sort of profound assertion about the trials and tribulations of negotiating our privilege in the face of an actual global crisis, but publishing an article about my FOMO from a summer in Tuscany hardly puts me in good stead to do so. Perhaps I’ll be cancelled for my problematic musings, or does transparency make the cut these days?

Mikaela Webb is an Arts/Law student with a healthy amount of class and white guilt.

Support Et Cetera

More from Rewind