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Why are we living through rose-coloured lenses in 2022?…

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at UCT chapter.

Sometimes I wonder if we are the fools that Shakespeare wrote about, considering how we, in 2022, have become infatuated with the idea of idealizing our lives. It doesn’t matter if it’s a bird or a random person walking past me – for some reason, it’s become second nature to assume that there’s a predetermined and underlying reason for our paths crossing. Almost all my friends would admit they do the same thing, though, and it seems TikTok and Instagram Reels have also fallen in love with the idea of romanticizing our lives. So, my question is: what is it about taking a singular moment and making it seem that much more magical in our minds that has us gripped in 2022?

To start, I found myself down a rabbit hole of YouTube videos and articles around creating your own reality. I came to understand that who we are right now is simply a culmination of things that we believe to be true. In one particular video concerning the human brain and the study of consciousness (which, to your relief, I will not be diving into today), the YouTuber pointed out that we experience things in front of us because our brains pre-empt it. So, in a sense, when our brain believes that something is coming or is in front of us right now, we can see and experience whatever that is. In fact, to simplify matters, the saying “I’ll believe it when I see it” should be phrased the other way around. We see things before us because we believe them to be true. And no, I do not intend to sound like the “Matrix” right now with these theories about reality… Still, when I sat down to write this article, I couldn’t help but wonder what the long-term effects of dreaming up your reality were and what this attitude says about us all now in our post-COVID recovery period…

Think of a moment when you witnessed something by chance, yet when you saw it, you knew it was almost as if you were meant to see it. Perhaps this article is that very thing for you. Maybe you can name more than one moment. I hope you can name many. And yes, I understand that the idea of believing in ‘signs’ borders an entire philosophical ideal of wanting our lives to have a higher meaning. However, I’d like to point out that it wasn’t until recently that I started feeding off this very feeling. So, what does that say about how I and we have been coping with the pandemic? Have we suddenly become obsessed with a ‘fairy-tale’ reality because we are tired of feeling like our lives are not as interesting under COVID restrictions?

My most recent ‘sign’ presented itself sometime last week. I went to one of the bathrooms at my university, and I came across a quote from Dead Poet’s Society about the importance of changing angles and viewpoints. The quote was, “I stand upon my desk to remind myself that we must constantly look at things in a different light.” And yes, so many people would simply say it was cool that I saw a quote from one of my favourite movies and that I should’ve just gone about the rest of my day (and week) not looking back. Yet maybe I really was a fool because I did the very opposite. The writer and romantic in me saw that quote as validation that life is yours to change if you only had the effort to switch lenses. In that way, I gave that random-bathroom-wall-scribble-of-a-quote value. If the studies were right, our reality is shaped by how we perceive it. This is all considering the importance we actively give each moment and the connotations surrounding these moments that we believe to be true. So, in a way, I am only writing this article because I stumbled upon that quote on a random Tuesday afternoon.

And I know that for years people have considered the topic of seeing the value in the ‘little’ things, but what is it about this life attitude that is so popular now?… Think about how in-demand the concept of “manifestation” has become lately. Even though it has always been practised by certain communities in so many vast ways, there seems to be a craze around saying things like “I am manifesting good marks for us” before writing a test. I can almost guarantee that every university student has heard the word “manifest” at least once a day. But why?… Apps like TikTok, Instagram, and Pinterest have obviously catapulted their popularity. Still, I think deeper than that, it is because of COVID and everything that has happened over the past couple of years that people who were never initially aware of manifestation have suddenly clung onto it like a shield. Our period of reflection, which I mentioned in my previous article about 2 months back, made us reminisce about social interaction to the point that it impacted how we appreciate the ‘little’ things. Small outings like going to the shops for the first time when restrictions had lifted made us all place this new level of weight on such experiences. We missed the comings and goings of society to the point that in our attempt to find ‘normalcy’ again, we adopted a newfound hopeful mindset and prosperous attitude towards external connections. It’s almost like we forever fear the day that lockdown starts becoming implemented into society again, so “speaking positive energy to the universe” has felt like an attempt to ensure the security and prosperity of our current realities. In this way, so many students are doing what they can to both attract abundance and positivity into their lives.

So, if COVID has made us more nostalgic, and coming out of it, we have become more optimistic (to say the least) – what happened in between that accelerated this progress?

Taylor Swift folklore

Well, one of my theories involves your favourite influencers and celebrities. When the lockdowns got more frequent, chances are that you sought out comfort amongst your favourite stars, YouTubers, and artists. This makes sense intuitively because of the lack of external communication we had during this time. Furthermore, despite COVID, the 21st century has caused our online and real-world identities to become blurred into one in this new world… Anyway, for me, a real-time example of someone I reflected and dreamt alongside was none other than Taylor Swift. She re-recorded her old albums and released them under the title “Taylor’s Version,” which I see as the literal, symbolic epitome of how we are all looking back on our old versions of self and how time has shaped our perceptions and ideas.

Moreover, her two albums, Folklore and Evermore, were products of COVID-induced reflection and dreams. These albums came about purely because she spent time at home simply thinking. In her documentary “Folklore: the long pond studio sessions,” Taylor mentioned how she spent time thinking about experiences she had and experiences she imagined other people were going through without her ever knowing, and how she would ever be able to put that into words. If you have listened to these albums, you would also see that they almost feel like what reflection would be if it were a person. Taylor is but one famous figure who has created something out of nostalgic contemplation. Therefore there will be other artists or influencers that have done something similar over the course of the pandemic, and so it suffices to say that we transcended into this space of romanticism and whimsical dreaming as quickly as we did because our online role models encouraged it. 

The more I think about the link between COVID and the sudden urge to take what is in front of us and turn it into something meant for us, the more I see that romanticizing and manifesting is a way for us to visualize and anticipate our futures. A significant reason for this is that COVID pressed pause on our lives for so long that now we want to live as though we were infinite. If we had felt a little lost about what our futures may hold, that period of meditation forced us to come back to what we know and regroup before starting back up again. We quite literally came out of lockdown wanting to make our lifestyle better and do all the things that we couldn’t during COVID lockdowns. Thus, we put so much worth on any external connections that this fear of living in a world where we are deprived of such things has given us the drive to alter our perceptions of what’s possible for us to achieve.

Amy Honeywell is a first-year student at the University of Cape Town. She has chosen to study a Bcom Management for now but plans to possibly switch it up and go the Business Science route instead, eventually. Her interests and hobbies include movies, art, running, reading, and of course, just generally having a damn good time.