Opinion

Don’t Judge Me for How I’m Dealing With This Quarantine

Keep your toxic positivity out of my face. We’re all getting through this the best we can. For me, that doesn’t mean being productive during quarantine. It means Netflix and taking my foot off the gas.


“Leave me alone — I’m not interested in being productive during quarantine.” Photo by Mollie Sivaram on Unsplash

Confession: A full month of quarantine has begun to piss me off. Like, annoy the absolute shit out of me.

No, it’s not just the current president (who is now holding back essential government aid in order to get his name printed on stimulus checks). I was over him long before this pandemic ever began — his reckless demeanor and antics are to be sadly expected at this point.

But besides those who are still not practicing social distancing and putting others at risk, I’m becoming increasingly irked by the folks who are trying to shove the gospels of high productivity and excessive positivity down my throat right now. It’s as if some believe that we shouldn’t let a little ol’ global health crisis (that has now taken the lives of more than 135,000 people and counting) get us down. No, according to them, we should be productive during quarantine: We should be writing that book we’ve been putting off and reaching our fitness goals in order to “make the most” of our time.

It would be one thing if these overachiever activities were done privately and considerately, because to each her own in responding to this madness. But the push to get people to buy into the cult of hyper-productivity has morphed into judgment on social media, practically shaming those who are simply trying to adjust to a new normal.

Recently, a viral “motivational” message circulated that has taken the phenomenon to the next level. By now, you’ve likely seen some variation of the “If you don’t come out of this quarantine” post:

It was in this moment that I was like, “Oh, come the fuck on.”

This crisis isn’t simply an extended snow day. What we are experiencing right now is a once-in-a-lifetime moment that none of us, understandably, was prepared for. We are in the middle of an economic recession that is being triggered by a fatal virus that is taking away our loved ones while simultaneously trampling the joy, safety and security of the world. If ever there was a time to just grieve, take it easy, or just simply be — this is it.

Right now, there are way too many people online pushing me to be happier, thinner, or more entrepreneurial. All of this falls within the confines of toxic positivity, a cultural phenomenon built around the premise of good vibes no. matter. what. Toxic positivity may come with good intentions initially, but it inevitably harms us because it attempts to divorce us from nuanced human feelings like sadness, doubt and pain. In many ways, it’s a bad defense mechanism that deprives us of our full humanity — our right to be imperfect.

This pandemic has made me cry, mourn and fume. I’ve lost mentors and inspirations in the industry and have had to offer my condolences and prayers to more families than I can count. As a black man, I’ve seen my community hit especially hard by the coronavirus.

So if I choose to just spend the day lying in bed, washing my hands obsessively, and watching Netflix to help ease the sorrow, it’s not because I “lack the discipline” — but because I’m a human trying to survive in uncertain times. Right now, survival is literally the only thing we should be striving for. Our essential workers risk their lives every day to keep us healthy, safe and fed, and they deserve to just relax after a long day of labor, not be bombarded by Type-A nonsense. As for the rest of us who have confined ourselves to self-quarantine, we shouldn’t feel obligated to do anything more than simply stay alive.

Be kinder to yourself. Preserve your energy. Focus on your mental health. And prioritize self-care. If that means you gain a little weight, procrastinate on some pre-coronavirus goals, and never launch that new business …  who cares? Reside in the grace that you’ve been able to stay alive and you’re fortunate enough to be reading this right now.