The Uplift: Finding Inspiration and Joy for Difficult TimeDecember 17, 2020

You haven't gotten over your pandemic-induced early quarter-life crisis. You wonder if your coursemates - and other students in your university - are feeling the same way. It should be a milestone crisis, which your parents would disagree with. (You can't imagine what it's like to experience a midlife crisis.) Is life one big crisis? Yes. At the moment.

You don't understand your mates arguing about the differences between the second season of "His Dark Materials" and "The Subtle Knife", the novel on which the series is based. Will Parry might have a semblance to Frodo Baggins, but you doubt if the series would gain more viewers if BBC would be faithful to the adaptation to the book. You're all wondering about the succeeding seasons, if the producers would adapt the "Book of Dust". (Lyra travelling to the Far East? It reminds you of Marco Polo. Your roomie thought that it would be easy as crossing the Outback. You have doubts about it, though.) On the other hand, you (and your coursemates) became fans of Billie Eilish after watching her mesmerizing performance in the American Music Awards of 2020. You can't wait to see her setting foot in Down Under (or you insist that she will sing "Therefore I Am" in the 63rd Annual Grammy Awards). It made you wondered why Sheppard chose Justin Bieber's manager. Someone from the hall rued about the postponement of the 2021 Australian Open and Roger Federer missing it (due to his knee injury). Your father, a huge tennis fan, said that Ken Rosewall, one of Australia's tennis legends, was still playing in his 40s, so he doesn't see Federer retiring next year (or the year after next). All of these distract you, but it doesn't uplift you. And it doesn't help that you're meeting your coursemates on Zoom. (Chatting is not included.) You're staring at the fridge at times. What to do?

Staring at the fridge is not a sign of an existential crisis. It might be hunger, which you refuse to acknowledge. (Summer is here.) It's pointless to own the pandemic crisis, a term that might have been used early this year. You must get over it, focusing on a number of things. Where to start?

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Read comics. Your tutor asked you if drawing comics was one of your interests, unaware that this hobby could help you in surviving the pandemic. But you haven't read a single (comics) issue at all. This is the right time to read comics especially Marvel fans. (Suri became the new Black Panther. Marvel comics fans would point out that this is not a spoiler.) Going places should make you hopeful about the immediate future, so look for Herge. (It may not be wise to travel to Belgium next year, though.) On the other hand, it might not be right to read Alan Moore's works this season. A former student once said that he was obsessed about Moore's (graphic) novels, prompting you to wonder if he was pulling a leg.

Relax a little. You miss brunch with your mates. You can't move on from the fact that e-schooling would be inevitable. And the end of cash. (Why did it happen so soon?) All of these made you forget that opportunity of spending more time with your family. You might not like to hear your father talked about Australia's heyday in tennis one more time, but you can change the topic of conversation. Invite him to play "Family Feud". Which foreign languages are easy to learn? Name one-syllable words that rhyme with "mate". Name six countries that seem friendly to Australia.

Explore your backyard. You wondered how your other coursemate knew the distinctive behavior of insects in his backyard. It turned out that he read science features every other day, where the authors pointed out that the pandemic kept scientists from going outdoors (and study the insects). It would be up to volunteers, the ordinary folks who have a backyard (and possibly a park a few blocks from where they live). You may not be interested to volunteer (and help scientists in providing new information about a new insect in the neighbourhood), but summer is the ideal time to go out in the morning. It should lift your spirit. You must not worry about frustration and the seeming lack of direction, as...

You must read a book. You plodded about thinking about everything lately. There's plenty of time for that existential dread later. Read a book. Choose an author, if not genre, that will pique your curiosity. Don't read "Mary Poppins" again after your mother remarked that P.L. Travers was unhappy about how her book was marketed. How about John Irving's "The World According to Garp"? Robin Williams and Glenn Close starred in the big-screen adaptation, but you haven't seen it. Your coursemate thought that "The Ickabog" was too long for a fairy tale, but your mother was a huge J.K. Rowling fan. (You imagined how Maidens' Dreams would taste like.) And your tutor doesn't encourage you to get a copy of "Serpentine". It might be featured in the fourth season of "His Dark Materials", which made you restless. Lie down. Imagine the unmistakable salt smell of the sea while descending down a slope. It doesn't end there. Yet.

You can't sing, but you're loving it. You can't forget the dumbfounded expression of your mates after hearing your rendition of "Geronimo". You haven't been to Brisbane, so this hit song first came to mind. But you don't care. (You're not auditioning for "The Voice" soon.) It's about having fun.

What will Santa Claus do this Christmas? Think of a face shield attached to a red cap, and it must be made specifically for someone with a bushy beard. This is the ideal time to show your generous spirit, but the pandemic would restrict you. Plan a virtual meeting. Turn your room into Santa's workshop. (Your friends must have great ideas. Plexiglass dividers won't be one of them.) And invite some kids (through Zoom). It should brighten anyone's day - even there's a possibility of warmer days later this season.

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If all of the above wouldn't be enough, then chat with your mate. Send an e-mail to your tutor. Talk to your parents and sibling(s). Problems must be met with seriousness and compassion, even if they're small and petty. Don't worry if you sound melodramatic. And you can ask anyone if you need a haircut. Anyone might suggest a healthy hobby during the pandemic. If it's a recipe for a winter salad, then don't think twice about it. (You can show it off to your coursemates. Soon.) Someone might recommend a Christmas tree farm (and you don't have a tree yet). And don't worry about your family noticing you eating dinner ridiculously early. You're not alone. You stared at the fridge. Again.

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