By Maya Petzoldt, TIWP Student
I click the power button on the side of my phone, feel a moment of relief as I feel the button give way, the sound ring clear, and my phone screen go dark. No longer am I reading a Lord of the Rings fanfiction, not a Hobbit fanfiction, no contemplating reading the Silmarilian, nor am I watching youtube shorts of slime shops. For once, the quiet rings. I don’t have a youtube video of the Distractible Podcast on my computer, next to my Canvas account. My computer is quiet, not even the fans are whirring trying to calm down the furious temperature my computer is known for. I’ll have to replace it soon. Shame, I wanted this computer to last me the semester.
In this silence, in this moment, I shake my phone, and let it come to life. I scroll through youtube, until I find what I’m looking for. Not fanfictions of Eomer x reader, not fanfictions of hobbit culture or gender-bent Bilbo Baggins, not another Lionfield short. I don’t open the Books App, or pay attention to a text from my writing class, or the alert from Duolingo. I don’t check in with my boyfriend, or perhaps ex by now, on instagram, or see the new charcuterie board my mother has made and posted a picture of. No, I open a TryPods episode, number 181. They begin to talk.
While they talk I write this story, and I think hard in a way I have been avoiding for a long time. My friend, my best friend, someone who is a sibling to me, has told before how they feel. How the silence brings them a creeping dread, of existential proportions. Where the silence brings the universe bearing down on them. Where the silence brings a void filled to the brim with questions of why, how, and what. To them the world is filled with the ominous dread that it is ending, that there is a war going on, that we face uncertain future, that politics are sliding in terrifying directions, that we are living through history with an absent mind and idle hands, and that the universe is vast with no motive for creation, and yet it does. What a familiar feeling.
But it is not one I have felt in a long, long time. I have drowned it in the media and the creative works of a thousand people. I dread formal reading because it reminds me. I love each and every work I read and watch. I see youtubers like Markiplier and Jacksepticeye and Overly Sarcastic Productions make new videos, sometimes an hour long, and seek joy in their content, and take their words to read into. I learn to love trying to find meanings in the smallest things. As I watch The Rings of Power series I decide to rewatch Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit and talk of post-WW1 and pre-WW2 anxiety and lancelot parallels. I read copious amounts of fanfictions, ranging from every fandom I can manage to invest myself in, from One Piece to Helluva Boss, from Otome games like Ikemen Vampire to Lego Monkie Kid.
And it helped. I filled that void and dread with so many things. And when the anxiety of school, family, and friends caught up, I went to therapy and then back to the media. And it helped, it truly did. But as I grow up, now seventeen and closely approaching adulthood, I know it won’t last. As a kid it’s healthy. As a kid the media is my guiding hand. My parents give me a compass, and the media gives me experience. It allows me to explore. When Markiplier released Lost in Space I happily dived into it. I went with him on that journey and had fun, and I learned. I learned about perspectives. When Jacksepticeye released his video reviewing ADHD toys, and went on a month break, and then came back with a video that I can only describe as amazing and a change in a new, curious direction for him, I got excited. As someone with plenty of mental disabilities, I was so excited to see a creator I love explore that. I was happy when he went on break, because it made me introspective on my own work ethic. I was excited when I saw his comeback video, because the style made me wonder what he has in store next.
But as I listen to the Try Guys talk about their controversy and recent events, I am reminded that drowning myself in the media isn’t going to last, isn’t going to help. It is a brief reprieve, one that leaves in the last half hour before I go to sleep, when my phone is charging and not playing cleaning asmr to the world. I don’t know, really, what’s next.
I know I can’t keep drowning, and I know I shouldn’t give up the joy it brings me. So what do I do next?
I suppose the only thing I can do is keep on trucking, and find something I enjoy. I can work on school, on my relationships, and on myself. I have a therapist, who helps me regularly and effectively. I have medicine that helps me, all the time. I have family, who are here to support me. I have friends, going through the same things. I can make some pasta, and get back to work. Not just work on Discussion Boards in World Music, or in reading the 100 webtoons I subscribed to, but on just living happily.
I can query the universe, yes, but I can also go visit my mom and sit in a hot tub with my aunties at the same time. I can have anxiety, and sadness, and terrible fear of my future, but I can also cuddle my friends at the same time. I can struggle, cry, and hurt as I work through mental barriers, but I can also have my dad right there to support me. I can watch youtube creators I love, read works of fiction I love, and write my own, and I can keep on living.
I do not deal in absolutes, but I do deal in depends. So as my future depends, I will stop pretending I must live absolute fantasies.
Waking up, and confronting my reality will not be the death of me. I think I put it off for so long because I thought it was, but now, in taking a step and doing it, I know it isn’t. As the 5th Doctor told Teagan, Brave Heart. I’m going to need it, but I have no doubt I have it. So, Brave Heart, Maya, it’s a big world out there, but it certainly isn’t a bad one.