Passing the Time
By Anna Vavagiakis & Rachel Cantrell
In this collaborative pair project, we collected and reflected on the things that have helped us pass the time in—as we often hear now—such an unprecedented time.
School and work from home. Classmates, coworkers, and friends on the other side of a screen. Our daily routines turned upside down. With everything we’ve temporarily lost during COVID-19, we’ve suddenly found ourselves with something new: So much time.
We’re Anna (she/her) and Rachel (she/her), a mentee-mentor duo through @girlswritenow, a writing program that brought us together (remotely, of course) in 2020. A pretty interesting time to meet someone new, if you ask us. Want to join in? Send us a DM, and we’ll show you how you can add your story to this zine.
Message in a bottle
Quarantine and the way the state of the whole world is right now has put me in a very difficult place. I have been questioning my self worth, having trouble with my appearance and happiness. During these months I have been most scared, depressed, and anxious I have ever been, especially when I found this bottle.
My parents had seen an opportunity to go on a little vacation and break from New York so we went to New Jersey and rented a house by the beach. One day we were taking a walk and I saw a bottle on the beach and thought it was very cool so I decided to take some pictures. When I was done I walked away from it and my mom had seen what I was doing. She joked and asked if there was a S.O.S. message in it. I smiled and then thought about it so I went and looked at it again and saw that there was a message in it. Very cautiously I opened it and took out the note and It was a note from a teenage girl. She had written many positive things, saying how you belong here, you are worthy and how she loved you.
This is one of the greatest things that has happened to me. It is something that normally happens in the movies, and I was amazed. This note is something that has made my month and had made my day. It is something I look back on, reading it really helps me realize that I am loved and that things will get better.
I am a pessimist so I believe that the world isn’t the best place. I am not sure why this is but I know it has something to do with my previous experiences, knowledge, and mental health. This note though, did really change my perspective and made me see some positivity. I am very grateful to this girl and hope she continues to spread positivity. Once I took a picture of the note I put it back in the bottle, hoping someone else will find it and will continue to help people like me who are going through a difficult time.
If you are feeling depressed or are suffering from any form of mental illness please seek help. Know that things will get better, that you are loved and you are so strong.
Please Stay Safe. —Anna
Netflix is basically my best pal nowadays. I spend way too much time on it, and I have watched too many shows—yet still my “Watch Later” list still goes on for miles. I have always found watching movies and tv shows to be freeing and so much fun. I grew up watching old movies with my father, which is where I get my love for them. During this difficult time especially, I like watching a show to keep me away from the real world. Sometimes, I end up getting really emotionally attached to the characters and start yelling at the screen like a crazy person. If I am sad or scared, I watch a show that I have seen 20 times—my comfort shows. If I want to cry it out, I watch a sad movie. Shows have so much—if not too much—power over me, now more than ever. —Anna
During quarantine I have, like everyone, spent most if not all my time in the house. This made me very bored and gave me a lot of time on my hands. I had to come up with some hobbies and fun activities to do, besides sleeping and watching shows, that helped the time pass. One of those hobbies is clay work/sculpting. Me and my mom have started to buy air dry clay that we sculpt with and paint once it’s dry. It is really fun, and I usually do it while I watch a show in the background. I create something for myself or the house, and I have a hobby to pass the time. —Anna
Baking and cooking
One thing that I have done a lot of to pass the time is cooking and baking. My parents have bought HelloFresh packages, and two times a week I make a meal for the family. It is a lot of fun, and it gives me something to do that makes me feel productive. I usually put some music on or some show to have in the background to laugh or to dance to while I cook. I also have been baking. I have a whole lot of more time on my hands — and while I used to bake, I have started to do it more often, especially around the holidays and birthdays. I find it relaxing, as long as no one is in the kitchen. I make something delicious and it is freeing and fun to do. —Anna
As a Los Angeles native, “brownstone” meant very little to me until I moved to New York. But now, especially on these daily walks through quarantine, it means everything. Before the pandemic, the perfect brownstone was the center of the endless mental calculations I’d make on the walk back from the C train. What kind of writing jobs — and how many of them — would add up into a single early-nineteenth century brownstone with three floors and a classic red brick exterior, and maybe one of those beautiful stained glass windows if I was lucky? What would I do with all those floors? How much do wood-burning stoves cost? Would I ever go outside again?
Now that I walk past these brownstones exclusively in daylight as an escape from Zoom calls and doomscrolls, there are fewer opportunities to peek into the homes of the brownstone-blessed, snoop in on their dining scenes, and fantasize about my own lavish dinner spreads. What I notice instead is moments like these—in a sea of red and brown bricks, some choose to throw it all to the curb and, in this instance, paint their century-old building like a bold Spanish villa, complete with golden-yellow archways and lion statuettes. —Rachel
On my mother’s side of the family, food is a love language. My grandmother was always insistent on whipping up a special batch of niku udon when we visited—a noodle soup made from thinly-sliced beef and a savory dashi broth, with a tiny sprinkling of togarashi. My aunt Yoshiko taught me how to roll and cut carrots rangiri-style before simmering them for curry. And my mother, now a chef by profession, taught me everything else: how use a knife (which was then about three times the size of my hands) without slicing my fingers, how to bread and fry tonkatsu and just about everything else, and best of all, how to quickly fold gyoza—my favorite little dumplings.
In quarantine, gyoza has been a small form of meditation. Mixing, kneading, resting, rolling, filling, folding, repeat. And in a moment when things feel completely out of my hands, folding gyoza takes me to a place where things are absolutely in my hands—because with all the dumplings my mother and I have made together, the filling and folding and pinching is all muscle memory.
Some heirlooms are made of gold, but mine is made from a delectable balance of pork, scallions, and soy sauce. —Rachel
It started with a hat. Then a sweater. And then a few sweaters more. After a few months of knitting, knotting, and unraveling, I learned that making hundreds—maybe even thousands—of tiny little knots was one small way I could hold myself together in quarantine. Because even when I found myself in an absolute mess (like this situation here) I learned that there’s always a way—even if it means taking everything apart and starting over. —Rachel
During our time together through Girls Write Now, we talked quite a bit about what we were doing to pass the time during the pandemic. Anna in particular had so many creative projects to share—from writing to collage to photography to sculpture—and her stories became a foundation for Passing the Time, a zine to collect all of this work.
Anna Vavagiakis is a photographer, writer and high school freshman who lives in Brooklyn, NY. She has a love for films and books that give her an escape from reality. Anna finds both writing and taking pictures to be freeing. She feels that books, the right ones, can give you so much love, a home and a purpose. And photos can conjure emotions, too—an amazing thing.
Rachel Cantrell is a freelance writer, verbal identity consultant, and jazz nerd based in Brooklyn, NY with a tuxedo cat named Bootsy Collins. She was formerly a Verbal Design Director at R/GA, where she worked on Google Play, LEGO, and more.