It has been extremely difficult for me to focus on anything, but I feel like I’m starting to come out of, or at least have found a manageable way, to exist within the mental funk of all of this. Even writing this took weeks of exerting mental strength to myself formulate my thoughts into words even somewhat coherently. What's happening is a total nightmare for everyone—but the complete lack of certainty or anything close to a routine has completely thrown me off as someone with Executive Functioning Disorder. Luckily, I’m somewhat prepared for this based on the many, many periods of time I’ve been un- or under-employed, but, this time is obviously very, very different. Eventually I’ve gotten new jobs, found a balance of some kind—but when the option of being able to go out, visit family and friends, go to live events etc. is completely stripped away in quarantine, it becomes an insurmountable loss. Collectively, the whole world is under house arrest. It is completely surreal.
I’ve been spending a lot of time reading the news and it boarders on an addiction—but at the same time, I can’t blame myself for wanting to answers. I’m not interested in the death statistics as much as I’m craving the answer to when will all of this is over. I google every day things like “when will this be over?” “End of COVID-19”, “public gatherings re-opening”. It feels like Google acts more like a Magic 8 ball then it does a search engine; none of the answers are conclusive. All we have are theories. I’ve read increasingly more theories that suggest that we will have to practice social distancing and banning public gatherings until Fall 2021, or as most are saying, until we develop a vaccine. It’s predicted it takes 18-21 months to develop one, even in the fastest of circumstances. Others project four years. This idea paralyzes me.
I’m experiencing a lot of resistance to digital performance. If this is the future of theatre and live performance for an indeterminate amount of time, I’m not sure I want to be a part of it. I hate the glitchiness and lagging of Zoom and Skype and it’s pretty cringey to even watch Instagram Lives. I feel that it is taboo to say this, because it is really all that we have right now. I find myself only able to engage in the Instagram Live stuff if its by comedians like Meg Stalter or John Early/Kate Berlant.
There was a Medium article about this called “The Forgotten Art of Assembly” that has been met with a lot of controversy within the industry, and perhaps rightly so. I should say that I mostly agree with this article, especially the part about who the audience for this stuff really is. My dear friend Siobhan really hated it and wrote a rebuttal, and she raises some good points—that there have been immersive performances over the phone and through digital exploration. Maybe there’s some really cool immersive stuff to come from all of this, who knows?
I had a therapist before my last one who, while not perfect, said to me that regret is a useless emotion. I think about this more and more often as I think about the past, or as I’ve been half-joking about it, “the old world”. This conversation mostly stemmed from the fact that I was grieving the fact that I’m in my late 20’s and I didn’t take advantage of going abroad in college, but the reality is, I craved stability after a hard time of moving around during my teenage years and all the trauma that came with that. But it’s useless to dwell on that. I’ve been thinking about how important it is to be forgiving of ourselves and the importance on being less hard on ourselves. I feel like I range from either being completely forgiving of my past mistakes or I agonize over them—there is no in between. Right now I’m giving a new remote work from home job a try. It is hard to concentrate, and I’ve never done a job like this before. I am staying in my friend’s apartment in New Jersey where half the week I am sleeping on a couch with about half of my normal wardrobe and only the bare essentials. I am telling myself it is ok if this job doesn’t work out for me. To say this is a stressful time is putting it mildly. We are all surviving and adapting. I am working hard on accepting that not every job is for everyone. Obviously I need money and want to make this job work, but if it doesn’t, that is ok. I am working to forgive myself for things I have promised in my present and my future: if I have to leave Philadelphia and if I have to cancel my upcoming production of ROCKY HORROR (RHS) which seems so foolish to even sweat about in a time like this—but I was really, really looking forward to finally getting to do it. But there is next to nothing keeping me in Philly past my lease ending in October.
The theme of the year seems to be grief. My dog of 16 years died on the first weekend of everything went down. Then came the loss of work, the loss of physically seeing those I love, the loss of touch, and gradually, the loss of certainty. It happened both over time and all at once. We are all carrying so much grief, and will be for a very long time. Those of us who make it through this are going to come out differently—there will be irreversible trauma. We are going through a purge right now of an apocalyptic proportions and have no idea what next week, next month, or next year will look like. Grief manifests in so many different forms, and of course, there are stages as we all know. Like most people, I go in and out of grief. Some days—and perhaps increasingly often—I am angry. I am beyond angry at the protestors, Trump and his villainous administration, and everyone in between who is denying reality and ignoring CDC guidelines and prolonging this hell. I am angry at how we’ve been forced to normalize things that are really not normal. I am angry that we have to wear face masks everywhere and how uncomfortable they are. I am angry at landlords, mortgage companies, Amazon and large corporations. I am angry at how we’ve had to act like this is ok and make quarantine cute on social media. For a while, I found myself getting annoyed at TIGER KING memes. I am angry about this upcoming election cycle: I think Joe Biden is a sexual predator and can barely form coherent sentences, and I’m really fucking angry that he is the only option against Trump and therefore I pretty much have to vote for him if I want to feel like I did my part just like last time. Lastly, I am angry on how dependent we are on digital life and that it is not a substitute for real life interactions.
I am thinking about the homeless population, those quarantining with kids, those in abusive relationships and those with substance abuse issues a lot right now. I am also thinking of old people, the immunocompromised, the disabled population and other disenfranchised groups. I wish there was more that I could do to help them.
Repeat after me: essential workers should be making millions right now. I am hopeful that we will not forget the service of the working class in this time. Anyone showing up to a work place right now is a hero in my eyes, but especially those working in hospitals. Every hospital worker deserves at least a million dollars each right now. If the labor strike does happen on May 1st, I will be in unwavering support of it. The fact that all essential workers aren’t receiving hazard pay right now and that asswipes like Jeff Bezos are just sitting on piles of millions is nauseating to me.
While the sadness, depression and anger is at times unbearable, I have to remind myself that there will be things to live for. The world will never be the same again, arguably, but eventually, we will be able to resume most (if not all) of our freedoms of “the old world”. Eventually we will be able to hug my family and friends again. Eventually I will get to feel the touch of a lover. Eventually I will get to be a part of a public gathering again. Even if worst case scenario, none of these things will happen, I have to believe it will. I have to believe that I will get a chance to do the things I’ve always wanted to do: write for TV and film, direct RHS, VERY MERRY and all of the other theatre projects I’ve been dreaming of, maybe go to grad school, etc. I have to believe that there will be good on the other side of this along with things to look forward to. I have to believe the dreams I have had for years have not been completely robbed from me.
There are also things at the end of this that I would like to believe. I would like to believe we will take climate change and public health more seriously. I would like to believe that this is the final straw for Trump and if unfortunately it isn’t, that the Democrats might finally learn their lesson about putting up shitty centrist candidates that people don’t want to vote for. I would like to believe that we can abolish capitalism, and begin to imagine a world that does not depend on the stock market and the global economy. I would like to believe in a world with more love and compassion.