I want to relax in my self-isolating bubble: Stop telling me to write the next King Lear
16th Mar 2020
With most of the population stuck at home for the next two weeks, the pressure is building to create a lasting legacy of our time in quarantine— but I ain’t buying it
It’s a weird time, to say the least. I’ve been working from home since Friday, and I already feel like I’ve been off for months. Writing this at the kitchen table while the rest of my housemates work seperately in different rooms of the house feels like the future of pod-living.
I’ve (stupidly) been spending a lot of time on social media the last few days, because, well, there’s nothing else to be at. The social commentary on the situation is varied, from hilariously funny to worryingly serious, and there are ‘hot takes’ to beat the band out there. But one particular hot take actually burnt my brain — a reminder that when Shakespeare was quarantined during the plague, he penned King Lear while stuck at home. Translation — we should all be using this period to come up with the next King Lear.
Apart from the fact that none of us are bleeding Shakespeare, this idea really got to me. Is this where people’s brains are at right now? The most damning indictment of how capitalism has riddled our collective brain is this idea that we should be using this unprecedented virus outbreak to try and carve out a space for ourselves to make extra cash.
The idea of the side hustle is a uniquely millennial one and it’s unclear where exactly it stems from. It could be down to our constant self-comparison on social media — it could be globalisation which affords us the opportunities (and the accompanying pressures) to become multi-hyphenates.
My guess is that, especially for the Irish, living out our young years through the prism of the worst recession in living memory has instilled an unshakeable sense of fear — fear about getting paid, having security, and living up to our potential. And when a time like this comes along, that fear jumps up a notch, and forces us to grab any opportunity for possible future monetary gain with both hands — in this case, ‘making the most’ of our time at home.
Rest and relaxation
But here’s my own ‘hot take’ on it. This is the first and probably only time in our lives that the majority of the population will have an extended time at home. Yes, we could use it for self-improvement, and in many ways, we should — less time on social media for example, or more exercise. But rather than squeezing every drop of potential out of a time like this, why can’t we — gasp — use it to relax?
All we ever talk about is burnout —that insipid tiredness that creeps into our bones and makes us forget how we felt before we had it. Memes about permanent exhaustion and not having had a good night’s sleep in ten years abound, and we all collectively laugh while applying eye cream to the bags that droop down to our chin.
But now we have an actual opportunity to RELAX. Remember what RELAXING feels like? Either do I! But now I can! And I’ll be damned if I’m going to let Twitter make me feel bad about doing that instead of becoming the next Shakespeare.
I do not want to write the next great Irish novel. I do not want to become the next John B. Keane. I want to sit on the couch and binge watch The Hills for the tenth time. I want to ossify for a few days in front of Cash in the Attic. I want to make some toast and eat it sitting in silence staring at the wall for 45 minutes. I want to try out a new skincare routine that takes 2 hours just because I have the time now.
This, of course, does not apply to the freelance world of creatives out there, whose literal job is writing and mixing and drawing the stuff that gets us through the dark times. I’m talking about the rest of the office — the ones that haven’t written anything longer than a tweet since secondary school, but are now convinced that they have an odyssey inside them that will make for a lucrative movie deal in five years’ time.
Imagine in a few weeks time, returning to work — which person would you rather be? The one who, for the first time in a while, is actually rested and ready to provide some useful input to the day? Or the one with the mad hair clutching an incoherent manuscript to their ‘new book’, which, let’s face it, is probably about 80% self-indulgent shite?
It’s pressure enough
We literally have a matter of life and death on our shoulders right now. The pressure is on us to limit the spread of a deadly disease that has already killed thousands of people. This is heavy stuff, lads. It’s pressure enough.
We don’t need to add to it by feeling like we should come out the end with the next King Lear. Your achievement for the year can be that you didn’t give Covid-19 to your elderly relatives. I’m sure they’d thank you more for that than a half-hearted attempt at a romance novel.
Read more: 7 binge-worthy Netflix shows to watch while you’re self-isolating
Read more: Sleep, uncertainty and social media: Dr Doireann O’Leary explains how to reduce Coronavirus anxiety
Read more: Coronavirus: We asked an Irish immunologist about the best and worst case scenario
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