Roughly 20-odd years ago, a popular animated series that I fell in love with truly, madly, deeply aired an episode where the school's brainy outcast, the one and only Daria Morgendorffer, became the center of the in-crowd's attention due to an unfortunate event at her school. When the less-than-humble, more-than-a-little-creepy Tommy Sherman, a former football star of Lawndale High, is suddenly killed in a freak accident, everyone at the school rushes to speak only kind words and sing his praises.
More so, they find themselves driven to more introspective moments. Daria, the sarcastic egghead with one friend to her name, turns into the person to talk to about their feelings that they're not used to ... well, feeling.
This episode was the first season finale of the soon-to-be cult favorite series Daria, and it has always stayed with me. Not because it's one of my favorite episodes -- far from it. But because that episode was when I first realized how eerily close I related to this awkward, upper-middle class nerd who wore black Doc Martens with a green jacket and A-line skirt every day. Visually, we looked nothing alike, but my ability to relate to her was cemented.
Because when Daria asked members of the in-crowd why they kept coming to her to talk about Sherman's death, they told her how they felt she would understand because they assumed that she was always unhappy and that she must be used to feeling how they're feeling now. This bothered Daria of course, until her best friend, Jane Lane, broke it down like this:
"When they say 'You're always unhappy, Daria,' what they mean is: 'You think, Daria'"
Although Daria understands that many of the people around her prefer to only engage with the lighter, popular and fun-loving aspects of life, she believes that the dark, esoteric and painful aspects shouldn't be ignored because if anything, they only make life more rich. And by the episode's end, everything is back to "normal."
So why the '90s rewind? This is what our current adventures in global quarantine currently remind me of.
All day, for the past 2+ weeks, I've heard the same message across social media, mainstream media, casual conversations, and the massive influx of email newsletters in my inbox: Everyone who isn't an essential worker is going stir crazy being forced to live a life that I myself have worked almost 2 decades to attain.
Granted, in my scenario, no one is sick, dying, overworked, underpaid or borderline destitute, and I can take a walk in the park anytime I please. But overall, I've been coping with the Covid-19 restrictions better than most. I'm not supposed to admit that I enjoy working from home, enjoy having very few face-to-face interactions unless necessary, and enjoy being left alone with my thoughts.
And there is where I think so many are struggling -- save those who are more worried about their health or income. For the last fortnight, I've witnessed a lot of chatter on social media about people missing a connection to their community, but I feel no such loss. I see my community as connected as ever. And as someone who happily lives alone, I also don't mind isolation. I don't mind sitting in a quiet space and thinking about the 1,000 different ideas that run through my mind at any given moment. It's only downside for me is that it contributes significantly to my procrastination. ;-)
You see, I love thinking. It's my anti-drug. If I wrote down my thoughts half as much as I have them, I would've filled an entire library by now. I often bristle when I hear people accuse me or someone else of "overthinking." I firmly believe there's no such thing, and everyone in our society could stand do a little more thinking on a regular basis. And perhaps if they did, the world might be in a better place.
I'm not insensitive to anyone's anxiety issues or the stress of wondering where we'll all be when this quarantine finally ends. And my heart goes out to all those who've lost their lives, are fighting for their lives, and are working to save lives in the face of this pandemic, but I must admit I feel virtually no anxiety or stress at all. Perhaps if I didn't have enough work to keep me busy through the end of the month with 2 jobs that I can technically do at home, I would feel some worry on the financial front, but as of now, I'm doing fine.
Staying in the house? It's my sanctuary. Fewer interactions with colleagues or with people in public? It's my pleasure. Bored out of my mind and worried I won't have anything to do? Never going to happen. Even if you took away my WiFi, I would have an unending list of things to keep me occupied and entertained.
I'm not trying to rub anything in. I know there are introverts who are struggling to cope right now too. I'm just not one of them. All I can say is that as an introvert, as a egghead, as a writer, and as a shadow worker, very little about the shelter-in-place has rattled my life to its foundations and left me feeling distressed. And because of this, I think I'm, once again, the Misery Chick.™
No, I'm not suddenly popular with the in-crowd or have a stream of questions being thrown at me about how I manage to be doing so well, but the difference in how I'm handling this quarantine compared to others seems significant. To the point where I almost feel guilty that I'm not more anxiety ridden. (Never thought I'd write that sentence.)
But please know that I am here if anyone needs to chat or would like advice on how to cope with all the feelings that thinking can lead to. I've spent the majority of my life preferring the company of books, museums, and the theater compared to larger, louder, more popular fare. I've also spent the majority of my life with people assuming that I was unhappy or miserable because of it. That interpretation has always upset me, but now is not the time to be petty. Now is the time to come together ... apart and if you are having trouble facing the shadows and coping with the psychological reactions of a life in temporary quarantine, I'm sincerely here to help. After all, I'm the Misery Chick™.