There is little doubt that time is going to pass in a strange way over the rest of the year. We hope that we will all come out the other end and emerge into 2021 with different perspectives and a new way to consider our futures.
We approached a group of Australian writers and asked them to write a letter from themselves in 2050, looking back at their 2020 ‘past’ self. We hoped that they would reflect on what the past thirty years looked like for them, be it hopeful or pessimistic, and reflect the world they’d like to see.
These letters were written and performed at a live reading over on our MOD.TV channel, but you can read them here.
Dear 2020 Jess,
Congratulations on making it this far! In 2020, you thought the world was ending. You didn’t know if you would receive this letter.
And how could you? When you’re in the apocalypse, it’s hard to imagine ever coming out of it. End times are meant to be the end. But each morning daylight would break and you would find the world revealed again as it was, but changed.
By now you know that time is incomprehensible, utterly changeable. March 2020 took ten years, April was gone in an instant. Two months before lockdown, you were in India, shoulder-to-shoulder with thousands of people sharing in poetry. Two months later in Australia, people were fighting each other in the supermarket.
The future was never going to be about flying cars (will still don’t have those). In 2020, with spiraling unemployment, you just wanted an equitable social safety net. I wish I could reassure that we learnt. That we came to understand our humanity beyond market forces. That art-making is essential. That shelter is a human right and homes should not be resources for wealth. That we understand addiction as a medical issue and not a criminal one, and that everyone has agency over their own bodies. I wish I could assure you.
What extraordinary good luck you had, in your small pockets of the world. Untouched for so long by disaster, until that bushfire season, that avalanching pandemic.
And though you may have avoided the worst of it, after that you learnt that things don’t always get better, they just get different. Remember that though the world may always be half bad — that it is half tragedy, half joy — you have to keep trying to tip those scales. Beauty needs its bearers. And you can’t let the bad guys win.
They key is to remember. What I can assure you of is that storytellers remembered. The essentialness of writing was made plain. Remember the past, document the present, create a future – and then you’ll know that you will live to see it.
Yours from 2050,
Things are different now, but people have stayed the same. There’s always something to love in everyone, so thank you for fighting. We lost many a battle, but we’re beginning to win the war. Your determination to fight for everyone will be a life-long effort, so get used to digging in your feet. I wish you could see the kind of world you’re struggling for, but know that life will provide many pleasures along the way.
Love will find you, but you must jump to meet it. Speak to everyone. Always. Relish each moment of connection. Seek to understand other people. Take consolation in the thought that your voice, your art and your battle will be recognised. If not in the history books, then in the experiences of those who could not stand for themselves. Do not work for a reward, but your own enjoyment. Cherish the time you spend with your loved ones. Memorise the lines in their faces. Breathe each breath of air you can get into your lungs, for its purity will not be here for much longer. Feel the textures of the surfaces around you, they will become relics of the past. Laugh as much as you want to. As dire as things may get, momentary joy is always a worthy cause. Strive to be happy. Take joy in your duty, recognise that one person is worth it. Don’t restrict yourself to the imaginings of others, or the requirements. The system is not your friend, but your mentee. Treat it gently, but always, it is below the people. Each battle, no matter how insignificant to you, is as important as the last. Art is sacred, more so than the flimsy structures of society. Break out, no matter what anyone says. Speak every word you wish to but examine each piece of language you encounter. Communication will become paramount to your survival. Keep your memories fresh in your eyes, but watch the kaleidoscopes of other’s experiences with a compassionate glint. You are always one person in a room. Treat every person as your equal. Listen with open ears, never dismiss until you have researched. Hold onto each fragment of yourself with fragility. Your duty is as important as your happiness. Comprehend now that you will not spend your life enjoying the freedoms you create. Instead, you will work tirelessly to breed futures.
Love radically, speak freely,
Ask them to put this in a museum,
this honoured feeling of humanity
because we never had a plan to be
anything more than human
Ask them to put this on display
with do-not-touch on a plaque,
cast a harsh florescent light on it
to remove all shadow of doubt
that what we believe, we become
We didn’t shoot for the stars
but we fell on a cloud of Carbon monoxide
We fell like investments, and lives
We had such faith in gravity
and in thirty years, gravity
has become fate
Falling has become fate
Fate has erased our destiny
was a dream you had last night
between the sheets of paper
this poem is written on
and I can barely make out the words
So put this in a museum
and maybe the revolution
will be government funded
The arts – WILL be televised
Culture will be carefully crafted
by hearts and not minds
so hope survives time
and you will see the dust settle
Take a breath, and map every alveolus
like a destination to look forward to
A privilege of existence
A tongue-kiss with a tree –
love, passion, & marriage
The oxygen and carbon monoxide
our mother breathes deeply
We don’t fall, we float together.
Ask them to put this in a museum, and
I will wake up tomorrow in an alternate universe coloured evergreen
Trees are seen through windows of houses, and not screens
Apocalyptic skies dissipate to reveal our name written in the stars
Shoot for these stars, and fall on faith, hope, destiny.. restored
Where fate was nothing more than a landscape
In 2020, in a museum, that you honoured enough to change.
Where destiny was a single moment you remembered
how magical it is to touch someone.
Where together, your magic touched us in 2050
and there is a museum where we remember
what could have been.
This is a dispatch from your future self. You might be picturing me as some kind of amphibious android hybrid, but let’s not get too ahead of ourselves.
Let’s see. 2020.
You’re in your pyjamas – that’s a given.
You’re at home – another given.
You’re studying. The assignment is about gothic fiction, about the sublime.
The sublime is something that evokes a hybrid sense, of awe, terror, inspiration and wonder. It implies inconceivable vastness and infinity.
You feel that this is very relevant to 2020.
You think that the future is always sublime. You think the present fits that description pretty well too. Time is all a bit amorphous, particularly when you’ve been stuck at home this long.
You feel incapacitated by some of these feelings, but you find a way to think and move into them.
It’s a specific form of bodily animation, a type of choreography for contemplating the future, grappling with that cocktail of terror and wonder. It’s something done usually without realising but demands to be harnessed consciously.
Pacing. Often associated with anxiety, agitation or boredom, you come to see this rather as a transformative activity.
While stuck mostly indoors, you pace to keep time and rhythm, marking out points in continuous, timeless monotony.
Through pacing, you activate a ritual of re-mapping and re-discovering space. You pay attention to things you hadn’t noticed before, in the home, in the garden. You find limitless excitement and inspiration in this domestic sphere. You find, as you pace in the home, it becomes a grounding act, a rite of ground-stomping on stomping-ground.
Most importantly, you wander as a way of meandering into memory, and drifting into the future. Here, that vast sublime space relinquishes its terrifying grip, as possibilities open up.
Your body moves and surrenders to momentum, your mind following suit. Orientating, discovering, processing, remembering, forecasting, considering what might be.
Many things shift and change, but this is something you return to. Just time dedicated to daydreaming with intent. You envision it as a televised sport, with no real end-point or competition at play, just people pacing up and down a field, lost in thought.
You don’t propose to walk away from, or out of, the heavy and pendulous responsibility of the future. You instead commit to walking towards, into and through it. When you are limited, restricted by time, space, health, circumstances that confine and atomise, you return to pacing, where new ways of thinking and being might emerge.
This might not seem to be a dispatch of great urgency, and maybe it’s not. It’s an invitation to trudge valiantly forward in the slow spirit of patience and consideration, as we move into the future.
Dear Kelly in 2020,
When i think of you back then, i see you the night you sat under the supermoon, looking up at the sky, and, with a dry throat and wet eyes, thinking about how you were only matter.
Just a tiny collection of cells on a small blue blob, floating around a larger yellow blob.
The overwhelming grief and relief you felt when you realised you were nothing more,
No different than what came before or will come for millennia after you were gone.
I’m going to speak to you knowing the way you’d speak to a friend.
Okay, you haven’t invented a cure or fought wars in trenches,
But you’ve spoken words onstage and from Parliament’s benches
That have shaped a new way, and i know you would say,
If you were your own friend, that mattered.
I know you’re not friends with yourself right now, so let me try:
Here’s what i’ve learned in 30 years it took for “you”: to become “I”:
Love your freckles the way you love the dust on your bookshelf. Love that often over-extended right leg of yours – I think it’s trying to teach the rest of you to refuse to be held back. Cut your losses, and for goodness’ sake, cut your hair.
There have been people in your life who don’t understand you enough to help you learn to understand yourself. I’m not necessarily saying you have to let them go, just let them go to parties while you go home and don’t worry about why it is you do that. Don’t fear rooms full of people and don’t be afraid to be by yourself. Because if you’re being so with your own permission then you’ll never be alone.
Don’t forgive people if it means you’ll forgo your self-respect.
Choosing to bare your soul to someone is not an automatic agreement to bear that person’s crosses.
But if you don’t manage to get it all sorted; if we’re still paying hefty psychologist fees, mumbling into blank pages and sitting in corners and crying and sweating and dancing and loving in the endless quest to fill our own shoes, then that’s okay. Because one day – and I know you probably won’t believe me, but if you take nothing else from this little letter, let it be this –
one day you will be sitting under that same moon, looking up at the sky, and know not just that you are matter,
But that you do.
Kelly in 2050
Jessica Alice is a poet, critic, broadcaster She is the Director of Writers SA, the peak organisation for writing and literature in South Australia. Find her online at @jessica_alice.
At just 14, Audrey has experience as an actor, spoken word poet and public speaker. Audrey has appeared in ABC series ‘F**king Adelaide’, feature film ’52 Tuesdays’ and short films ‘Rapture’, ‘Elephantiasis’ and ‘A Field Guide to Being A 12-Year Old Girl’ which was a peer created documentary, which won the Crystal Bear at the Berlinale film festival. In 2017 Audrey created a talk for TedX Adelaide about their experience of gender, which they performed live to 950 people. Audrey was the 2018 Winner of Spoken Word SA’s inaugural Youth Slam Rumble and has since been a consultant and speaker on Channel Nine’s Cultural Conversations series – The Evolution of Gender, and was the peer facilitator on Carclew Youth Arts’ Project ‘Carclew Futures’. In 2019 Audrey opened the DreamBig Children’s Festival of the Arts, in front of 2,500 primary school students and spoke at the September 20th School Strike, alongside other rallies. Audrey is a vocal climate activist through their speaking and poetry.
Jesse Oliver is a writer, performer, and Australian Poetry Slam Champion. His poetry has featured across the page, stage, and screen – and at writers’ festivals around the world. Jesse’s work highlights the strength in vulnerability, using poetry as a tool for connection.
Hen Vaughan is a writer and artist living and working on Kaurna Yarta (Adelaide). Their interests include walking practices, site-specific performance, creative health and systems thinking. They are a proud co-director at FELTspace ARI, and recently completed a co-curator internship for Adhocracy festival’s tenth anniversary program at Vitalstatistix. Hen’s critical writing has been featured in Runway Journal and fineprint.
Kelly Vincent is a writer of plays, short stories, poetry, and personal essays, although she is better known for her disability rights work. Between 2010 and 2018, Kelly was a Member of the Legislative Council for the Dignity Party, making lasting changes for disadvantaged South Australians. Some of their achievements include reforming the justice system for vulnerable victims of crime, establishing a treatment centre of excellence for the treatment of Borderline Personality Disorder, improving access to public transport, and removing barriers in the National Disability Insurance Scheme.
Kelly has worked in the Education Department supporting neurodiverse students and she now works as Access and Inclusion Coordinator for the 2020 Adelaide Fringe. She loves her partner, the poet Jessica Jade Nestor, their cat Daisy, and the Oxford Comma.