Courtney Britz

Aspiring writer, budding linguist.

Cape Town, South Africa

I suppose my relationship with language is best described as a bipartisan passion. Writing as an artful expression was my birth right, a fascination with language as a scientific system was a natural discovery. So I fell in love with both literature and linguistics -the frame and canvas upon which worlds are sketched, filled, coloured.

I am pursuing post-graduate studies following my triple major in Language and Literature, Media and Linguistics.

Letter to 2020 Me

Mar 17, 2022 1 year ago

Dear Me, circa 2020. Hi there, old friend. It's been two years since the world as you knew it ended. I know we had hopes that things would settle back into some semblance of normalcy, but alas, I am obligated to inform you that the ghost of all that once was will continue to haunt you. Lockdown has effectively ended but we are still required to wear masks, maintain six feet of isolation (the depth of a grave, mind you), and use sanitizer until our once-soft hands have begun to resemble chicken feet. Pro tip: stock up on moisturizer. Life gets . . . more interesting over the course of the next two years. For the sake of brevity, I will not go into detail of the general state of the world, as that will only serve to depress you (and as you will soon discover upon further perusal of this letter, you don't need the extra help). This will be a letter of selfishness, a reflection if you will, on how you personally experience these next two years. This is a letter for internal consumption. For too long, you refused to self-examine and self-report. But that's why I've taken it upon myself to start this correspondence, so we don't make the same mistakes again. So hopefully, we can learn. This is what follows in the next two years. You never learn how to play guitar, like you promised yourself. You don't get to parade around a body that boasts two years of consistent working out and clean eating (although, thankfully, the only weight you gain is emotional baggage so that's good). You burn out trying to learn French. Almost flunk out of your Honours programme. Your labyrinthitis comes back and you end up losing your job due to your relapsed symptoms, stress and insomnia . . . yes, it sucks and you hate yourself for months (you need to work on both your discipline and tendency to self-flagellate by the way, it's an incredibly unhealthy cycle for you). You compare yourself to your old classmates, you feel left behind. You lose contact with a high school friend and it cuts pretty deep. Your mother has a health scare that sends you reeling. You lose direction and feel unanchored; you drift, you seethe, you ache. You experiment with alcohol, develop a slight dependency on gin to numb the sting of the dragging weeks. You struggle. You feel more alone than you ever have in your entire life. This sounds awful, I can imagine you would like to remain in the naivety of early 2020 because despite the world burning, you thought things would get better and they don't for a long time. But then they do. These two years will feel like you are in the eye of a hurricane, sheltered in stasis amidst the maelstrom. You'll feel like you wasted time, you will long for memories of when you were active and living and hungry. But standing on the other side, I'll tell you one thing -you learn. You learn to trust yourself to pick up the pieces after losing the plot. You learn to stop focusing on missed opportunities and propel yourself into forging new ones. You learn to appreciate your loved ones more, to check in with friends and maintain those bonds. You learn to make time for things you love. You write again. Fall in love with music again. Some childlike wonder returns to you at the end of that dark tunnel. You begin to regain the foolish courage of youth and stretch your hand out to touch the light pouring through. There is light and it's beautiful. Time is a funny thing. It doesn't feel like two years since I last saw you. I'm two years older and yet I feel as though I've aged decades. What is to come will feel like both too much and nothing at all but don't be afraid. I learn from you. Time, as all things worth preserving, is fleeting. You'll be eager to make sure you don't miss out on even the once-mundane aspects of living the life of a young adult now that you're in the throes of a pandemic and even simple things are no longer mundane. But you have to learn to be patient with yourself. It is not your job to have your entire life planned perfectly, calibrated to a timeline that I can attest will throw you for a loop time and time again. Our job, you and I, is to take what we learn along the way and put it to good use. The important thing is to place our value on the quality of our experiences, find joy in the day-to-day. That's one thing a pandemic will teach you. I take your ambition and hopes with me into the years to come. I have a good feeling about where we are now, where you will be soon. We get better. See you on the other side. Love, Me, circa 2022 P.S. I'm serious about that moisturizer.



Jul 27, 2020 2 years ago

The sudden snap of loneliness seems to leech the very warmth out of the air. With a silence louder than the genial laughter and chatter that blasted through my laptop speakers mere seconds ago, it creeps back in, reacquints itself with the corners of my living room and settles. I make a mental note to call a friend later, chase it away again albeit only for a short while. Sighing heavily, I sink into the cushions of my sofa, the overly familiar feel of foam squares yielding to my weight. The laptop still rests precariously on my crossed legs -my ever attentive ally against confinement-induced insanity. My faithful assistant in study and work, my communication portal to the world outside my little apartment. A lifeline and a curse. For months now, all I've had to show for a life once lived has been stretched across thirteen inches of pixelated nothingness. Technology is a wonderful thing but even this apex of modern human endeavour cannot replicate the hug of a relative, the playful shove of a friend or the kiss of a lover. And for me, an island to myself without a house full of people who would turn out to be strangers after months of finally learning about one another, the absence is so sharp it cuts me to the quick. Yet . . . It's not enough. A call, a Zoom date, letters flitting across a screen. If anything, the much-lauded tool for connection only serves to amplify the distance it supposedly breaches. Phone calls ring hollow, video ones glitch and shudder, always leaving the participants a beat out of sync with each other and messages require the use of emojis to feel any shade less impersonal. And still, despite this, each attempt at communication only delivers the shadow of company. Only now, in the midst of a nationwide lockdown do I realise the wraith-like quality of our modern communication forms. Only now that I have no human contact do I distinguish between the virtual and the real and just how precious the latter is. How, in our fast-paced lives we take for granted the ability to co-exist in shared time and space. A tad melodramatic? Perhaps. Quarantine has not been kind to my penchant for overthinking. But the longer I sit here, smothered in my couch and eager to head out for food supplies if only to be within greeting range of another human being, I find myself coming to the same conclusion. When did we merge the personal with the artificial? When did the organic mesh with the mechanical to such an extent that pre-Pandemic us, us ungrateful techno-abusers would feed our addiction even in the presence of other living, breathing, feeling people. Phones had become a fixture, perhaps even a third party participant in every interaction. And now they take center stage, fully commanding the space they once peripherally occupied. I place the device aside, getting up to stretch my limbs and pace about the little space for the umpteenth time. I've never been a particularly outdoors-y person. But the urge to frolic amongst variable shades of green or to sleep beneath an open, star-flecked sky has been gnawing at my conscience for weeks now. I wonder why it took a dramatic roll of fate's dice to bring out such strange longing. Why it took the world to shut down for the true appreciation of such simple wonders to be appreciated once more. When did we become content with so little? When did once-in-a-lifetime moments become opportunities for snap shots and videos, archiving the occurence at the expense of full experience? How did squares of metal manage to enchant us so to maintain our undivided attention for hours at a time? I mentally chide myself, stern resolve determing a course of life that will actually be living once I'm set free from this box. I know it will not last. Once the calamity is lifted and earth's rotation reset again, things will go back to how they were before, within a more broken world. After all . . . We've become accustomed to our glass boxes and technological self-quarantine. The former most do not even notice. The latter is one I doubt most would mind maintaining. Sighing, I retrieve my phone from my pocket and head back to the sofa.



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