When we began this online platform, we said that this magazine would grow and evolve with its authors, readers, and creators. As seen through the literary community’s commitment to persistence through even the most trying of times, this prediction has clearly come to fruition. In just three short years, Essay has grown in ways we previously could have never imagined: starting a website, expanding our social media pages, participating in virtual launches, and including audio recordings with essays are some ways in which we have practiced digital growth. In a time where adaptability has become a necessary survival skill, each of our authors show us that the world of creative expression offers a safe space where we can learn to explore some of life’s biggest issues without sacrificing who we really are. Our hope for this issue is to provide a healthy space where all who come in contact with it feel free enough to practice their own explorations right alongside our contributors.
Whether it had been navigating the difficulties of meeting online or having to completely halt progress due to an outbreak scare, we are extremely proud of how our team has maneuvered through these hurdles. We would like to thank Hasanthika Sirisena for being an amazing and encouraging advisor, Julie Heaney for being a creative and adaptive junior designer, and our reading boards and copyeditors for their invaluable contributions and feedback. We would especially like to thank Marie Mutsuki Mockett for her extremely relevant and important Cunningham essay and for choosing the recipient of our Erik Kirkland Memorial Prize. We would also like to extend our sincere thanks to our contributors. This magazine would not survive if not for the amazing submissions our students create.
In her piece, “Five Vignettes About the Stages of Decomposition,” Tyla Parks explores the thought of what it really means to die, while also contemplating what it really means to live. She writes, “I asked myself ubi sunt ui ante nos fuerunt, as I laid in bed. ‘Where are those who were before us?’”. Tyla’s deep reflection offers captivating prose and seeks to find an answer for some of the most humanizing questions.
Ashley Toomey in her piece, “Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep,” relays an anecdote about her first experience with death and what it means to grieve the loss of life. Her longing for the return to a time of normalcy is something a lot of us readers can relate to, with many of us also going through a time of change in a world full of uncertainty and vulnerability.
In her piece, “I’m Not Depr*ssed and Other Lies I’ve Told Myself,” Hannah Aud opens up and offers a deep insight into her personal mental health journey. In a world where troubles seem almost inescapable, Hannah writes a relatable sentence that reads, “Those bad thoughts, the ones I could hide from during the day, snuck their way back in from the crack underneath my door.” Although her story is about the struggle of accepting that she has depression, her account provides an empathetic and relatable source of sincerity for many readers.
Meanwhile, in photographer Ayva Kunes’ photo essay, “All the Blessed Stillness,” she is examining what it means to “find yourself” and gain a new perspective when things are starting to look bleak. She found inspiration and solace in the rolling green hills of Galway, Ireland, and regained a sense of fondness for things she used to love. She writes, “The Irish rains cleansed more than just the landscape — in many ways they washed me clean as well.”
After a tumultuous and chaotic year, we are all in desperate need of a good Irish rain bath. And while you may not physically be cleansed, we hope your soul finds fresh comfort within our pages. We hope you enjoy this issue of Essay and find peace, meditation, and a renewed sense of togetherness. Our goal has always been to share the literary brilliance of our contributors with the world and we intend to keep doing that for as long as we are able. So, we say to you, keep writing, keep capturing life around you, keep expressing yourself, and we will share it with the world where it belongs.
Bri Murphy & Abigail Krautheim