By Anne T. Donahue
By now, we’ve all seen that King Lear tweet; the one reminding us that during the plague, Shakespeare wrote King Lear, so we can channel our own genius and do the same.
But here’s the thing: absolutely fucking not.
I understand the purpose of productivity. I get that it’s helpful to distract ourselves amidst chaos, and I also know that the world can’t completely shut down because, well, that’s just not the way anything works. But I also know that we’re in an unprecedented situation. I know that most of us are scared and worried and freaked out and upset, and I know that we have every right to be because a global pandemic has never happened in our lifetimes and there is nothing we can do to really control it, minus taking the necessary steps in our day-to-day lives. Everything that’s happening is nothing we’re prepared for. And now we’re expected to write our own versions of King Lear? To work normally? To “use our time wisely”?
Hard pass, friends.
Here’s the thing: I like my job and I love to write and it makes me happy. But I don’t like or love or feel happiness about the belief that the time we’re spending at home, trying to deal with a scary and massive unknown, is time to write a goddamn screenplay. If you want to write a screenplay, good luck and Godspeed. But if you’d rather curl up for a little bit, build a puzzle, and re-watch 90210, that’s got to be just as fine, too. You’re allowed to do both, or one, or the other because survival right now is productive. Being a person is enough. You are not wasting time or opportunity by disengaging with the ideology that how hard you work will save you if it’s not helping you. Right now, do what’s helping you. There’s no other guide to follow because we’re in uncharted territory.
Which isn’t to say you or I should tell the people we work with or for to fuck off, or that you should starting being a dick by squashing the coping mechanisms of someone else who don’t share the same as yours. (Some people really need to think they’re going to write the next King Lear, and who are we to tell them otherwise? They’re not hurting anybody, they’re in their apartment all by themselves, for heaven’s sake. Let them have this.) We still have to treat people like people, and respect that someone might find solace in the idea that they are creating something in the midst of pandemonium.
And that said, those of us whose solace isn’t doing the most need to be respected, too. Some of us are going to work slower. We’re going to be less creative, less inclined to do this, or that, or may need more time with an idea or thought or deadline. This isn’t business as usual, and it’s unfair to assume anyone is willing to operate as such. It’s unfair to deprive persons of time to process or time to be soft or time to sit in front of their televisions, watching terrible British procedurals. This is the time we let people well, be people. The only rallying cry there should be is the question of whether everybody’s okay.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to stress eat more apples I for some reason bought in bulk last week.
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