My (Un)Productive Quarantine: The Call To Arms
As have many others in this last wave of summons, I have been contacted by work. So I must return in the next couple of weeks of August and face the uncertainty and anxiety I know have been harboured across the world. because I got a taste of a different kind of freedom, in which one was able to step back and evaluate the minimum-wage workforce for what it really is; a machine to run us into the ground. Well... I guess I always knew that, but it felt all the more insidious once I gained some form of creative freedom.
“If your life can change once, your life can change again.” – Sanae Furokawa, Clannad (2007-2009)
I really enjoyed being locked away from society, more so than even I expected. That's all over now. And now I need to integrate. On the train, like miserable cattle to the slaughter. In stuffy air-conditioned rooms with repulsively familiar smells, now made more unbearable by the added layer of masked-protection, forced to breathe in my lunch for hours on end or face the burning of Trebor mints drying out my eyes. Time to merge with people, the virus and self-entitlement.
Like Boo Radley, I've lurked in the shadows. Yet now I must be thrust into the sun (and what an unforgiving sun August has graced us with, I'm a hot potato that's for sure). Furlough is taken from me, meagre although it was and I must face the work day and the uncertainty of a decent wage again. Hours will be cut, the promise of a new job too far off on the horizon I could almost mistake it for a mirage, the future feels a little bit too fuzzy for me. At least in the confines of my room, I finally found ways to cope. It was these times that the fictional worlds have saved me from the deepest pits of despair, escaping to lands of fantasy and fun. When will I have the time to visit them again?
As for my writing, well I got a strong flow going there and now I don't know if I'll have the energy. That scares me most of all. Losing the drive. Because I love writing with all my heart and it's carried me over the most brutal days yet here I am now, worrying if that will all just vanish. I've been living off the false hope that somehow my writing will take me somewhere, and even if the dream doesn't die, the return to world drags the prospect further from my grasp.
“They say that the best blaze burns brightest when circumstances are at their worst.” - Sophie Hatter, Howl’s Moving Castle (2004)
It's as though my arm has just slunk its way into the vending machine, reaching for the trapped packet of Maltesers. Only, the sweets have just slipped past me, before my fingers have even attempted to brush them, with a confident thud, appealingly as the chocolate covered malt balls clack together excitedly, down into the delivery drawer. Now my arm is wedged into the machine and the sweets are out of reach once again. And should someone come along and take the now free Maltesers? Well that person would be Life, and they wouldn't give me a second glance as they go. They'd even, in plain sight, open the packet and pop the first one in their mouth before they turn from me and go about their business.
“When people break their old selves they embark a journey to find their new selves.” – Gintoki Sakata, Gintama (2006 - 2018)
It's all one big game that is rigged from the start and I don't feel like playing it, I never did. So rejoining society and the drudge day in and day out, I'm frightened of it wearing me down so much that I'll finally be broken. Because I felt broken before, through all the struggle and stress and trauma that Quarantine brought. Over time I was able to glue back on the bits of me I liked. All cracked and chipped, still waiting for the glue to dry.
Suck it up. I'm saying it to myself, I can hear others saying it to me now. I'm thinking for others which I shouldn't do... And those thoughts are partly right of course. Plenty of people have done it, some never got the 'break' we did. The NHS carried us through and proved they are the lifeblood of the United Kingdom. I have my health, I have my interests and I have my achievements I wouldn't have managed without this forced Quarantine. I finally set up this blog and finished more articles and short stories than I have in a long time, I have an (Unedited -shh, I've got a plan for a total rewrite!) first draft of a script, short film ideas in multiple tabs, loads of post ideas, notebooks I've had for years finally being used... My brain is working. At last. And it's also enjoying it's free-time shamelessly. TV shows are being rinsed every night!
“There is no need for any proof. There is no need to create any. We just have to live every second to the fullest, and the traces of the path we lived will burn into the ground. That will serve as proof of our existence.” – Hijikata Toshiro, Gintama (2006-2018)
We humans don't like change. We had such a dramatic shift in the lives we thought we knew that now to shake things up again, we're like lost toddlers. For the first time, I'm beginning to see the world as a baby does during peek-a-boo. Perhaps I'm panicking about nothing, in fact the more manic I become the less terrifying the prospect of work will actually be. I might just be able to stomach the customers, the customer-service, the smells and the misery. It might not be as bad, because I'm making it into such a big thing. That's what I'll keep telling myself.
In the return, however, I just don't want to lose the me that I've quite liked. I'd been missing her for a long time. There's still so much I want to write and worlds I want to escape to. So I'm going to make time for it, because writing brings me happiness now where it once didn't. I took the pressure off it at last and it became for me again what it was a very long time ago.
“Sometimes you need a little wishful thinking just to keep on living.” – Misato Katsuragi, Neon Genesis Evangelion (1995)
That's why I need to keep doing it for me, to make sense of this miserable world we live in. To look for the beauty in life and enjoy the simple things; a walk by the river, a dog glancing back at its owner on a nice walk, a cup of tea over a favourite Gintama episode or ten. To laugh, cry and scream at all those films, books and shows that make me feel human. That make me feel like picking up a pen and wanting to make others laugh, cry and scream like I do over my favourite stories.
Find the things that make the real world bearable, whilst allowing the doorway to escape to sit wide open and welcoming as always. Hold onto that childish part of me. Hold on to the escapist, because there's nothing wrong with it. Those things will get me through this next bit. And in time, I'll grow stronger again and the future will seem nearer and brighter than it does now, within my grasp. It sounds melodramatic and cheesy no matter how I put it but I know what I have to do; keep dreaming, work hard and hope.
But most importantly, I need to remember that I am not alone in this. However minimal a comfort that brings me, I'm not the only one scared for the future. But you have to face it head on. If I live in the past, live off of regrets and self-pity, with all of my 'what ifs...' and 'why didn't I's...', I might miss something pretty good.
“The night is in its darkest just before dawn. But keep your eyes open. If you avert your eyes from the dark, you’ll be blinded by the rays of a new day. So keep your eyes open, no matter how dark the night ahead may be.” – Gintoki Sakata, Gintama (2006-2018)
Clannad: After Story. (2009). Directed by Tatsuya Ishihara. [DVD]. UK: Manga Entertainment.
Mirai. (2018). Directed by Mamoru Hosoda. [DVD]. UK: All The Anime LTD.
Gintama. (2006-2018). Directed by Various. [DVD]. UK: Unknown
Neon Genesis Evangelion. (1995) Directed by Hideaki Anno. [DVD]. UK: Manga Entertainment.