I suppose before launching into an analysis of my “typical day”, I should introduce myself for those of you who aren't already familiar with me through my periodic and no doubt irritating interjections during lectures, or through my haphazard use of emojis in Slack. My name is Jacob; I'm an eccentric upper year history student with a keen interest in most things. If you're looking for more information about me, I invite you to return to my late but critically-acclaimed post on Slack.
Like many people, I begin my day by waking up. This is less of a formal procedure for me than it is for some people, and so the process may take considerable amounts of time, depending on how many notifications there are on my phone with which I can procrastinate before initiating my day.
Once this ritual is complete, I inch my way to the bathroom to see what state my hair is in. Prior to COVID, I had short hair which could be described as “fashionably messy, yet relatively standard and unambitious,” whereas now it arranges itself into such shapes that a scholar of grooming might feel compelled to write some kind of bestiary. My hair has not been tended to by a professional since March, and while I do plan to return to something more civilized once a semblance of normalcy returns to life, my hair is at present one of my only sources of entertainment.
Anyway, though staring at my hair with a mixture of frustration and disappointment can consume a significant part of my morning, it is even more important that I check my farm on RuneScape at the crack of 10:30 every day; grinding for XP “Ain't much, but it's honest work”
It doesn't matter that I've already reached the maximum possible level in every skill; RuneScape tricks my monkey brain into feeling a sense of accomplishment when I reach certain milestones. These milestones are of course arbitrary, and even though large parts of the game could be completed by switching on a variable-speed drill and then buggering off for an evening of foraying for weird articles on Wikipedia, the goals are still somehow satisfying enough to convince my brain to squeeze out an occasional morsel of serotonin.
I then hurriedly complete my morning ablutions and attend my polysci lecture about the Middle East and North Africa. Today we discussed the problem of minority groups in the Middle East. It's very difficult to identify and separate the Middle East's countless minority groups in much the same way that it's difficult to identify and separate the blue food dye from an assortment of M&Ms. The European nation-state model (which each country has adopted, admittedly sometimes at gunpoint) assumes that the people in a geographical region can be bound by common ethnic, religious, linguistic, historical, and cultural identity, which is very tricky to accomplish in a region as beautifully mosaical as the Middle East. Of course, the basic philosophy of Western international relations has for some time been “How Did Our Oil Get Under Their Sand,” which hasn't helped. Countries – including Canada – have armed and endorsed autocratic regimes that have at best actively avoided sharing wealth and development beyond their own interest group, and have at worst committed genocides to monopolize their power.
After we finish talking about cheerful things like what challenges may come out of solving complex domestic problems from 40,000 feet, I have a two-hour intermission until my next lecture.
Unless a deadline looms over me like the ominous spectre of our impending and inevitable collective environmental apocalypse, these two hours are usually spent chipping away at the items on my to-do list. Today, for example, I'm working the video you are now watching. This is indeed fortuitous, as it gives me a chance to pad out the video with a bit of exposition, hopefully making it long enough to convince people that I do more on a regular basis than perhaps is actually the case. If I'm being truthful, then my idea of a “maverick daredevil” is someone who doesn't restart their computer after installing software for the first time.
“So what made you decide to film this video on Wednesday,” I hear myself ask. The reason for this is simple: it's difficult for a “day in the life” video to accurately describe the structureless 48-hour period that waits patiently at the end of each weak. A Monday wouldn't work either, as Mondays are rubbish. And Friday must be ruled out as the beckoning freedom of Saturday tends to distract from routine. Tuesday and Thursday wouldn't do either, as I don't have any lectures on them. I personally find that most days in which there are no obligations or deadlines tend to disintegrate into blank, featureless chronal vistas where time has no meaning. Our days of COVID-tide are spent wistfully watching each dreary minute drift off into the past. We row our cloistered social bubbles through the roiling sea of ennui and melancholy that formed after the first forty days and forty nights of self-isolation. We keep our gazes steadfastly fixed on the horizon of 2021; our prayers for a vaccine are almost loud enough to completely drown out the howling sound that emits from the gaping maw of oblivion into which identical, uneventful days are swallowed, never to return. Perhaps we should erect a cenotaph to honour the time that was killed during the bleak months of quarantine. We can chisel the name of each day we lose into a plaque like the names of fallen Babylonian warriors on an ancient Mesopotamian dolmen.
After having spent the interlude between my lectures on wordsmithing and narrating this recording, I attend our COVID lecture. Today's lecture was about sports during COVID, but there's probably not much use discussing it here, as everyone who watches this video was supposed to attend.
After the lecture, I either procrastinate for a while or work on some sort of project. Today I've decided to work on a peculiar ongoing project of mine. No doubt most of you are familiar with the ancient Lenovo laptops that used to clutter the desks of schools and businesses everywhere like Epstein memes on Reddit. These laptops have the approximate processing power of a Toshiba toaster, and so I've decided – for goodness knows what reason – that it'd be a constructive use of my time if I converted a literal toaster into a working portable computer out of the remains of a decaying Lenovo T60. This afternoon was spent on cloning the storage that belongs to this pitiful jumble of components from a 5400 to a 7200 RPM hard drive. (This will make the toaster run very slightly faster – though it is admittedly still on Windows XP.)
Following my adventure with the toaster, I enjoy a nice dinner. By mid-evening, I shuffle back upstairs to my desk. There is little doubt by this stage that my computer is slowly stealing my soul. It does this by collecting the small pieces of my humanity that I lose every time I read a YouTube comment, then rolling them into a ball like a malicious child with a target and some packable snow.
Where shall my time go tonight? I prepare myself a beaker of absinthe – and for once, I'm not being facetious for comic effect or to deliberately appear more interesting; I genuinely do this for no other reason than that I am a revenant who was actually born in the 19th century. The last few hours of this merry day are poured into making stupid characters in WWE 2K19 while listening to Frankie Boyle's Prometheus. Actual WWE holds little appeal for me; I've never watched an event for more than nine seconds. I've also never played the game as intended (that is, as a fighting game); my sole interest in it is that – just to pick some personal favourites – I can throw Gandhi, Richard Nixon,Waluigi, the InstallShield Wizard, a Picasso painting, the Safari browser, Mr. Clean, a giant version of Clyde (my friend's cat), Waldo, and the inimitable Chris Chadfield, into a ring together. Judge me if you wish, but there is something glorious about watching Helen Keller delivering a choke-slam/tombstone to defeat Margaret Thatcher.
But alas, the evening is now gone. Time is an illusion, as are Wednesday nights; I take a moment to appreciate that the world is dying, and yet I have chosen to spend an hour and a half modelling Peter Mansbridge to try and block out news of the American election.
As the day reaches its nocturnal terminus, though, I sit in bed listlessly pondering these stories. I think we do ourselves a disservice, as individuals, when we spend so much of our energy stressing about such news. My views of the modern world are frequently cynical and critical, but – despite the ongoing pandemic, and even though we are watching democracy crumble into partisan politics across the West – it is important that we remember that things really are getting better all the time. Dozens of the world's deadliest diseases are being progressively eradicated, and countries across the Global South have been taking huge strides towards development. Rates of starvation and poverty have been steadily decreasing, and third-world societies continue to improve their standards of living. Of course, the 2019 novel corona virus has had a marked effect on the global hegemony, but this may not be a bad thing. Perhaps this is a time for us all to reflect on our lives and ask whether our system is worth defending, and whether we have not been given an opportunity to change ourselves and build a better world. This is a rare time where we can reflect on whether GDP is an appropriate method for measuring our progress as a society, and whether metrics like happiness, health, education, and social welfare aren't better indicators of advancement.
It's very easy to open our daily newspapers and accept that life is full of tragedy and despair, but this is not so. If I can leave you with one thought for 2020, it's that disasters typically take only moments to occur, whereas positive changes – and I'm talking about real, lasting progress – take time.
Oh well; those are issues for tomorrow. To paraphrase something my mother once told me, “how we spend each minute, each hour, and each days is how we spend our life.” Hopefully some of you find something meaningful in my wee self-portrait. I look forward to hearing and seeing each of yours in turn.