In a recent chat with Alex (my partner in crime here at The Uncurriculum) she introduced me to the concept of goal themes. In a nutshell, instead of strict goals or resolutions you should pick a theme. (E.g. Instead of “I’m going to write a feature length script this year” it should be “This year’s theme is for me to write more.”) By choosing a theme over the course of a year (or even just a season) you allow yourself some “wiggle” room. So while I might have once agonised over “writing a feature length script”, by changing that to “write more”, everything I write is included and the pressure is off. This means that I won’t feel like a failure when my feature length script is half written and covered in tea stains. It means that by even writing this article I am succeeding.
“The Infection of Information” did not start out as our theme for 2020. It happened quite by accident and just spiraled. It all started with a move. A pretty big move, during a pretty strange time.
Alex & I are from a small little town that does not have a concert venue but does have an International Airport. (Up until December 2019 we didn’t even have a cinema). 9 years ago Alex flew the coop and landed in Toronto, where she resides to this day. 4 months ago I flew the coop and landed in New York.
So let's take a little trip back to January 2020—Australia is on fire, Coronavirus is just on the periphery of most people's minds (and the butt of many jokes), and I am in New York City looking at apartments. For one week I travel the boroughs, navigate the streets, view apartments, balk at the prices, and watch a few shows on Broadway before coming home and starting a new job. By the 1st of February my husband has left Ireland for New York. I am going to join him in May when my contract finishes.
Then Covid-19 happens. The coronavirus is no longer a flu on the other side of the world. It is a lot scarier sounding; a lot more official.
Then the word “lockdown” is being spouted by world leaders and social media experts.
Then work is cancelled.
Then the world begins to change.
So over the course of a weekend I buy my ticket, pack up, say goodbye and leave. I arrive on the 15th March to a very different New York than I had pictured in my dreams. St. Patrick’s Day is cancelled. Museums are closed. Broadway goes dark.
So here I am, in a strange city with no job and nothing open. I’m waiting on my work permit which means I can not even begin to seek out work. My days were spent in a slew of video calls home, reading, podcasts, making meals, and trying not to kill* my husband who at this point was now working from home.
*Whom I love very dearly, but to be frank spending every waking moment in each other's company with no reprieve is not the cornerstone to a healthy relationship.
I am sitting in the kitchen painting, or browsing, (but mostly likely eating), when I hear a call from our little cubby-office in our little apartment. “I sent you a link there. I think it might interest you!” The link? An online class called “History's Most Notorious Female Serial Killers”. It is a very loving, understanding and confident husband who sends a link like that to his highly strung wife.
Immediately I contact Alex. Alex and I have had many an in depth discussions about a large range of subjects. Most of them silly, some of them profound, all of them we find incredibly interesting or thought provoking. I knew she was a woman who would appreciate this class.
So we find this incredible resource - The Brooklyn Brainery (seriously if you are into weird learning… just go) and we find so many classes I start using my calendar to plan my days. It is a highlight of the week. As the world burns down around us, we look forward to our classes. From “Carthage Must Destroyed” to “Coney Island’s Disaster Spectaculars” via “The History of the Toilet”, “Cemetery Symbols”, “Akeneaten: Egypt's Renegade Pharaoh” and “Yes, the Pope Does Wear A Funny Hat.” We learn to love learning again.
The ritual is simple - one of us will send an excited message “OH MY GOD Have you seen this class!” Followed by excited messages that soon spirals into general chit-chat. The class is added to the calendar. Just before class I swap out my husband's laptop in the office for mine, I boil the kettle, set up the Zoom, login into chat with Alex and then it’s a go. After each class we video chat to discuss what we’ve learned. (Even though we private message each other during the Zoom classes - like we’re bold children passing notes). It is so much fun.
I was a year ahead of Alex in secondary school, so we never had classes** together, then 22 years after we meet we take our first class together. While I do love learning, there is something so lovely about sharing that learning with someone you know and like. It’s a means of sharing our very specific knowledge, developing theories, and having a reason to discuss things that we enjoy.
**Alex and I met first in an after school drama class, so we did technically take a class together but not in school. A few years Alex would use her learning to play a wonderful Lily St. Regis in our school’s production of Annie. I would use my learning to play the fool… you know - just in general.
The Uncurriruclum was the brainchild of Alex. She first spoke to me about it probably a year ago. We have a spreadsheet of topics. We have notebooks of information from our classes. We have had discussions with each other over a bottle of wine or a cup of tea about witches, the satanic panic and sometimes Ewan McGregor. The little nerd girls we were, are now nerd women. Nerd women who are not afraid to learn. Nerd women who embrace their “swottiness” Nerd women with life experience and crippling anxiety. With humour and grace and sometimes an abundance of swear words when the actual words just won’t do justice. The Uncurriuculum for me is as much about learning as it is about escaping. Escaping from the realities of racial inequality, viruses, politics and even our own insecurities. It is a safe haven from the world and from ourselves. Even though we are learning about sometimes dark subjects, even though we research the macabre, we gain comfort from it.
Who knew that Covid-19 would be the catalyst for us to start learning about the weird and wonderful? Who knew that Covid-19 would be the kick we needed to start The Uncurriculum?
Who knew that Covid 19 would help us establish our theme for 2020 - The Infection of Information. After all, who measures things by months or seasons anymore. Time is meaningless.