We are trying our best

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Walking to the park, armed with a face mask and some optimism

Hello, world. This is Raydon, and we are now officially in our fifth month of quarantine. Where I’m from at least, the quarantine has been non-stop since March 18, albeit with varying degrees of strictness — from the “You better not get out of your house except to buy groceries, or else” ECQ [Enhanced Community Quarantine], to the “Well, our coronavirus cases are still technically rising. We haven’t flattened the curve. We’re in over our heads but screw it let’s try to live as normally as we can” GCQ (General Community Quarantine).

And that’s what I’ve been doing: living as normally as I possibly can throughout the utter chaos that 2020 has been so far. How naive we were when at the start of the year the swine flu and a volcano eruption and succeeding ash fall were our biggest problems in Manila.

My ability to place a psychological distance between myself and distressing things was put to the test these past months. I can tell you that I’m not the type who gets anxious or panicked, even when a situation becomes absurdly stressful. Call it a natural tendency toward calmness. Also, I consider being granted the privilege of working from home since the pandemic started a blessing. Not having to drive to and from BGC everyday is such a large thorn off my neck.

My main enemy is boredom, not anxiety. I think my coping mechanism is to disconnect from the situation and retreat to my happy place. I usually do this through entertainment. For example, since February I have finished a total of 21 Korean dramas, most of which comprise 16 episodes that last an hour each.

Korean dramas are perfect binge material during a world crisis. Since most of them focus on lighthearted but nonetheless complex romance, it’s easy to be swept away by pleasant emotions as you follow the journeys of relatable characters you become invested in. Some highlights for me include Shopping King Louis, Crash Landing On You, Second 20s, Extraordinary You, I Am Not A Robot, A Korean Odyssey, and W: Two Worlds Apart. How could I not have accessed such a rich trove of excellent storytelling, world-building, and character exploration before? What I also love about Kdramas is that they don’t compromise the fun aspect of their narratives. Some storytellers think that for them to tell a compelling story, that story has to be devoid of fun and entertainment. Meanwhile, Kdramas have fun and entertainment at the backbone and work around that to come up with something creative and unique. Maybe I’ll get more specific when I get the urge to write about my Kdrama experience in detail.

But then one can’t subsist on Kdramas alone. I’ve also been reading a lot via Google Books and Amazon Kindle, and watching documentaries via CuriosityStream. Through my readings and my random binge-watching, I’ve delved into the worlds of Korean and Japanese poetry, classical music and modern music theory, winemaking, the flower industry, improving one’s memory, among others.

Also, I’ve been obsessed with this Korean boyband called Monsta X. I’m talking deep-level obsession here, wherein I’ve gone through their collection of reality shows, made an informal thematic analysis of all of their singles, and followed the relationship of the members with one another down to the last bro-hug and bro-kiss.

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I’ve been obsessed with the Korean boyband Monsta X after discovering them during the pandemic (credit: Starship Entertainment)

These things helped me breeze through the first couple of months of quarantine. But I think I’ve now reached a saturation point for entertainment and distraction. I find myself unable to open another Netflix show or book or YouTube video. It’s almost like the task of entertaining myself has now become a chore.

When the GCQ started in June, being able to go out again helped a little bit. I was able to eat in restaurants again, go shopping [I just bought myself a foot massager], walk to the park, and do everyday normal things, albeit with the burden of regular hand sanitizing, social distancing, and face mask wearing. But seeing how lean the crowds are in malls that would usually be full of life can be saddening, as well as seeing malls and restaurants close as early as 6 pm. What the fuck. That’s usually when things start picking up and nowadays it’s lights out time for them.

I mean, I get it, you know? I’m a trooper. I get that the pandemic came out of nowhere (*coughChinacough*) and no one really knows when it will go away and we’re all just doing what we can to survive and thrive under these conditions. But man, it’s still so frustrating and boring and infuriating as fuck. We could be living our best lives right now and instead we’re caged in by this situation that is so taxing and unnecessary. I’ve had to cancel my birthday trip to Italy. I was really looking forward to that. My couple of trips a year are what keep me going. They refresh my mind. They replenish my vitality, my appreciation for life. To be denied that for such an extended, uncertain period of time is so unfair. To be faced with this boredom and uncertainty is unfair.

Ah, boredom. I wish I were like Taylor Swift. She wrote and released an entire album, the return-to-organic-roots folklore, during the pandemic. I wish I could do the same. I wish I could just write everyday no matter what. I mean, I wrote a couple of poems during the quarantine, but I wish I were Taylor Swift-level productive during the pandemic. I wish I were more motivated to write more poems, short stories and creative non-fiction. I wish I just had that natural, spontaneous spark to use the empty hours to be creative and productive. I tried a couple of times to get a writing rhythm going but quickly lost steam.

I’ve also been writing my thesis. I don’t know how that’s gonna turn out but I’m trying my best.

I am trying my best.

Dear world, I am trying my best in this impossible situation. We are trying our best. Could you cut us some slack and grant us a major win soon?

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