Tales from a Quarantine
By Sean Collier
April 17, 2020
I started quarantine with big plans.
Not the self-improvement pledges some people make. I knew that I wasn’t going to learn to cook, conquer Duolingo’s Spanish course or master origami. I had clear objectives, rather, for media consumption.
I was going to devour recent series I know I should’ve already watched — shows such as “The Mandalorian,” “Watchmen” and “Chernobyl.” I was going to go through every single episode of the original “Twilight Zone” and tweet a screenshot for each. I was going to restart and finish “Red Dead Redemption 2.” I planned to tear through a Mel Brooks box set that’s been on the shelf for years.
I was even considering a long-awaited showdown with my white whale.
Not “Moby Dick.”
“The Wire.” I’ve still never seen it.
Thirty-one days into stay-at-home, I’ve completed none of those goals. I’ve seen three episodes of “The Mandalorian” and watched “Robin Hood: Men in Tights.” Other than that, every pop-culture mission stated above remains incomplete.
On the other hand, I’ve somehow watched “Zack and Miri Make a Porno” twice. (It’s really good!) I have now seen every single “Child’s Play” movie. And I’ve played a lot of “Fortnite.”
Seriously: A lot of “Fortnite.” I even win matches, on occasion. Do you know how much practice it takes for a 35-year-old man to actually claim victory over the itchy-fingered youth who have taken up permanent residence on the “Fortnite” island? So much practice.
I’m neglecting the things I actually want to watch, play and read because we’re not really steering the ship of our own moods right now. It bears repeating that this is an unprecedented set of circumstances; for the vast majority of us, our day-to-day routine has been utterly demolished. Even if you’re not a creature of habit, the rhythms of our pre-COVID lives were infused with all manner of self-care — the small habits, coping mechanisms and pleasures that keep us on an even keel.
Much of that is gone now. And while we’re all supplementing it with new pick-me-ups, there is nothing we can do to avoid being generally out of sorts. I’m sleeping more, but not as well. I’m alternating between bursts of productivity and periods of couch-bound paralysis. I’m running frequently, but every minute I’m not running is best described as “hilariously sore.”
Amid such disruption — not to mention the more specific anxieties associated with the pandemic — it’s surprisingly tough to pack thoughtful pleasure into every minute. Could I theoretically block off a schedule each day to watch all the stuff I’ve told myself I should be watching, conquer a mountain of virgin Blu-Rays and brush up on video games which do not involve celebratory flossing? Sure. But I’d be neglecting my own shifting moods and desires, and it’s probably more important that I do that.
Watch whatever you want in the moment. Play whatever you want in the moment. Read whatever you want in the moment — or don’t, no one’s going to judge you for letting “Ulysses” get dusty right now. You know the shows and movies you watch when you’re in a bad mood and just need a pick-me-up? That’s probably your go-to list for the next few months. Last year, you didn’t really need to watch “The Office,” “The Simpsons” or “Friends” yet again. Now, it’s a very, very good idea.
We all have enough to worry about in 2020 without adding the perennially silly guilt over pop-culture literacy to the pile. Embrace your entertainment comfort food. It’s fine. Let’s just get through this.