Mar 23rd, 2021, 06:44 PM

Shifting Priorities After a Year Living with Covid

By Kevin Jarussi
Pre-pandemic good times with my Arab and the Gay co-host Haya Tawil. Image Credit: Kevin Jarussi
How the Pandemic has Affected Members of AUP’s Community

It is now March 2021, and as we approach Covid’s birthday, I wondered how this year has changed people within the AUP community, for it has certainly changed me. I reached out to friends at AUP to ask them how this past year has altered their lives, and I feel so fortunate that they felt comfortable to share some very moving thoughts with me.

Haya Tawil, my darling former Arab and the Gay co-host (past episodes can be found on Spotify and Anchor), gave me the most succinct answer: “the only drastic thing that the pandemic has taught me is just to enjoy life a hell lot more, and to be appreciative of everything we have.” Cheers to that, Haya.

Samar Jaberi-Mériaux, our Alumni Affairs Manager, describes this last year as being positive on a personal level. Put on chômage partiel, she took the opportunity to do the things she had said she was always going to do, from learning to sew on an old Singer sewing machine, to making her grandmother’s Persian recipes which take hours, to reading two or three books a month; even writing a children’s book that has been years in the making.

Stuart in his Podcasting Pre-Pandemic days with L'Apres Cours co- host Bileh Dougsiyeh. Image Credit: Stuart Johnson

Stuart Johnson, ASM’s fearless Freelance Editor, is determined to not let this pandemic stop him from doing what he set out to do, namely obtaining his master’s degree. But life has happened, and he had to move home to help take care of his family, and in it all it has been difficult for him to see how the future is going to work and he feels caught between the old him and the new him.

Aris in the wild. Image Credit: Aris Wakefield

Aris Wakefield from the communications program, is currently interning at the OECD. She had already had a challenging time following the death of her mother and a fresh divorce on top of adapting to a new life in Paris, and just when things were getting settled, poof, devastation. All the little things she hung onto in order to make life relatively normal and stable were stripped away, and the personal existential crises that rose from there made her a reluctant self-therapy patient on her own. A woman who grew up with the idea that “if you are not going and doing something, then you are not contributing” was faced with a situation that did not allow her to live that way. For Aris, Covid has been both a nightmare and a rehabilitating period and the acceptance that has come out of it, while not without “an intense, emotional fight,” has been really wonderful.

Stella studying in the Quai. Image Credit: Stella Sagini

Stella Sagini, ASM’s former managing editor, learned to be gentler with herself, and understood that sometimes it is okay to not be okay. There have been highs and lows as well as uncertainty, clarity and confusion. She is very happy with her internship at AUP as the Grad School Social Media Coordinator and is more optimistic about her future.

As for me, I learned that my heart needs companionship. I have spent much of my adult life alone, and at age 38, I have hit my limit. I have allowed myself the freedom to let someone in, to let someone help me, and most importantly, to let someone love me. I have also learned to evaluate myself on my terms, to appreciate my successes, to learn from my mistakes, and to relish and celebrate that my life is a beautiful mess of unassembled puzzle parts being put together slowly, and magnificently.

Looking back now, I have such appreciation for the normality of life prior to March 2020. With AUP I was able to take two study trips, one to the Netherlands with Albert Cath, a professor in the International Management program and the other to India with Tanya Elder, in the Communications department, to take part in the incredible Sustainable Practicum in Auroville. Beyond that, Paris was lovely; the cafe culture vibrant, the restaurants brimming with activity, the bars always ready to serve me a pint of 1664. It is my third time living in France, and I am so grateful that I moved here when life was “normal.”

year has been everything: a struggle, a triumph, and a confusion of anger, acceptance, clarity and love. We did not see it coming, and unfortunately, we do not know where it will go, or how it will end, or if it will end. But one thing is true: it has certainly changed our lives in unexpected ways.