Tamara Jones on finding community in isolation, exploring ancestral healing, and understanding self-worth

Tamara Jones is a freelance storyteller based in Tkaronto. For money, she creates social media strategies for theatre companies, festivals and film productions. For joy, she dances, starts art projects, and watches rollerskating TikToks. Tamara is one of the phenomenal speakers lined up for With/Out Pretend’s digital storytelling event ‘On Distance’, which will explore how life in 2020 has us thinking about distance differently.
 
The past five months have been overwhelming, discombobulating, frightening, and painful. We’re looking forward to an evening where we can connect with one another and really sit  and examine the complicated mess of feelings, to help us gain some clarity and direction—we can’t wait to hear what Tamara has to share. 
 

When asked to share about Distance, what first came to your mind?

The first thing I thought of was the feeling of being physically distant from my friends and family, and a bit emotionally distant too. I’ve been working from home during the lockdown and Zoom fatigue is real so it’s been difficult to keep in touch with people as much as I would have liked. But following the deaths of Regis Korchinski-Paquet and George Floyd, the emotional distance I’d been feeling just sort of collapsed, so that’s what inspired me to write about ancestral healing and intimacy.

How do you think social distance, or living in isolation, has changed you?

Living in isolation has made me so much more invested in my community. I moved to a new neighbourhood back in January so I hadn’t gotten the chance to explore and meet people before the lockdown. Since then, I’ve gotten to know my local grocers, my neighbours, and community support initiatives I could contribute to. Since I’ve been working remotely, and social media became such a hectic place during the lockdown, I really appreciated getting offline and engaging with my community in-person — that’s a new experience for me. I’ve always been interested in what community care looks like, but now I have the time and energy to actually live it.

What helped you move through these past few months? And what was it about that activity that provided you comfort?

Work actually helped me move through the past few months. Not so much the act of working, but being in contact with my co-workers while we were all in such a vulnerable state. I work in arts administration and the theatre is closed for the remainder of the year, so we were having deep, existential conversations about the role art and artists play, and what it means to be a theatre right now. Conversations about community care, capitalism, and radical change have really been keeping me optimistic.

What subject did you become more interested in?

Oddly enough, I became more interested in writing during the pandemic. I’d taken a break after I graduated last year so I could focus on work, then since I was so focused on work I felt really creatively stifled. But since the lockdown started, I’ve been reading and reflecting more and all these new ideas are bubbling up. I have a few personal and freelance projects coming down the line, so that feels nice!

What have you learned about yourself, since COVID-19 hit and most of us were forced to separate from our usual, from our loved ones?

I was reminded of how much my self-worth hinges on not only my accomplishments but people’s reaction to them and opinion of me. Who am I when nobody’s around to validate how funny, smart, and cute I think I am? I’ve also realized how important it is to play and just do things for joy or relaxation — not everything has to be about personal or professional development, or shared on social media. 

What have you been dreaming of lately?

Aside from travelling, going to concerts, and hugging people, I’ve been dreaming of an abolitionist society where everyone cares for each other, power is shared amongst the community and everyone has what they need. The lockdown made it even more clear to me that this system is oppressive but instead of feeling pessimistic about it, I’ve been thinking deeply about public policy and transformative justice.

What five words would you choose to sum up the past 5 months for you?

Inspiring, humbling, overwhelming, lonely, and creative.

We’re certain Thursday’s event will be a nourishing one. Reserve your spot now, and follow Tamara at @tamaravjones. 

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