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Epistola #2: Quarantine Diaries and the Plight of the Perfectionist

By Maia Poon

Saint-Saëns’ Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso, Op. 28. A piece that portrays the agony of loneliness, the longing for companionship. A cry for a time long gone, a feeling that has slipped through fingers, moments in between different shades of the past...

How on earth am I supposed to believe that I, a teenager who has yet to experience even a fraction of the emotion portrayed in this music, and a science student who practices the violin for fun, can eventually perfect this piece?

My violin exploits aside, writing a graduation bio in 80 to 90 words has been the most difficult task I have had in quarantine, even harder than choosing a yearbook quote. I wanted to say something, and not say it in the same way as anyone else. I wanted “who I am” to be revealed through subtle adjectives and nuanced details. All this to say, summarizing five years of my life with such a constraint really heightened the significance of word choice.

A few days after I finally leave my piece alone (a Harry Potter reference and 21st century pun with a bit of satire, a healthy dose of nostalgia, and no clichés), I speak with a dear friend of mine through FaceTime: she’s a former teacher and a writer, and she’s spending quarantine alone in her cozy Vancouver apartment. She tells me that she’s keeping a quarantine diary, and she’s not recording her daily itinerary, but rather, her musings on her emotions, self-introspection in a time of mostly solitude. And she hopes that “the details of [her] living in isolation [will be] positive and self-educating... when life resumes its normal pace and rhythm [she] will not only remember this time in its single beats, but also that it yielded aspects of [herself] that [she] can still keep alive.”

"View From the Artist's Window" by Martinus Rørbye

Yes, she is definitely a writer. What stood out for me the most was her belief that “The journal itself is not the goal. The reflection is.” This simple concept can be a whole life philosophy or mantra, and it summarizes what I’ve learned from my quarantine creative arts.

After our conversation, I stumbled across an ad on YouTube with Itzhak Perlman, one of my favourite violinists. He says, “When I’m playing, if I don’t feel something in the music, nothing is going to happen. When you connect with the music, that connection will radiate through the audience.”

Mr. Itzahak Perlman, this is what I’m talking about! For me, art should be weighted with meaning, woven with emotion. It should be significant. But without simple skills, like playing notes in tune, this is difficult to achieve.

So I’ve realized that in order to say something that matters, I usually first have to say the generic, mindless, and even cliché, what may be labeled unoriginal, or more simply, trash.

Throughout the quarantine, I’ve discovered that in order to create something I can truly be proud of, I have to go through the process for myself—whether it be a metal dragonfly from a kit that I bent the wrong way so the head doesn’t stay in properly, a piece of writing made up of journal entries and fiction combined, or a violin performance that doesn’t show the hours of practice spent on just a few bars.

The abundance of free time gifted to us by the Coronavirus has forced me to enjoy the process, and not worry about the finished product, especially since social isolation means I won’t have an audience for violin anytime soon. Being by myself brings more meaning to being myself: trash, attempts at conveying emotion I haven’t felt myself, and the art that is produced from it all.

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