So, I began to think about my own PC experience, and why I so love the movies, shows, and songs that are stored on my hard drive. What gives?
First, and most basic, it passes the time. My nights aren’t filled with much of anything for 27 months. As a woman, I don’t feel safe being out past dark. I didn’t go to bars and didn’t drink in my small town. Those personal rules aren’t changing now that I’m in a town ten times the size of Nguti. I can burn through half of a season of 30 Rock in a night, because six to midnight is a long stretch of empty time to spend inside a tiny apartment.
It’s also comforting. My last 48 hours have been a rollercoaster of bad health. At one point I saw stars and passed out on my bathroom floor. Though it seems it was just a case of food poisoning, Cameroon does nothing half-assed, this included. I didn’t have anyone to rub my back. I didn’t have anyone to hold my hair. What I had was Season 3 of Downton Abbey.
Movies and television can be soothing. This week I had a request put in to teach approximate 100 orphans for eight hours. Friday I’ll be spending the night at an orphanage in the local big city and somehow, I’m supposed to impart wisdom to rooms full of people over the weekend. My mind is swimming, I’m grasping for supplies and rehearsing lines, and when I’m not worrying about my performance, I’d like to put on the newest Ke$ha song, dance around my living room, and pretend there isn’t work to do.
Media is a touchstone of America for many volunteers. I used to identify with songs on the radio, instead of envying them. That time in my life when driving down back roads was a romantic gesture instead of a safety hazard. When prolonged eye contact was flirting, not an invitation for harassment. I remember what it was like to eat at a nice restaurant, like they do on television. I remember when I could use a credit card, or could go to a grocery store. Automatic coffee makers. Microwaves. Street signs. Ambient lighting. Seatbelts.
Watching someone else’s life (pretend or not) can help block mine out for a while. Sometimes a rom-com is what I need. Nothing steels you for sitting on your porch and watching a man be fatally hit by a motorcycle in front of your building. As people gathered on the street below my balcony I, instead, decided to go inside. I could either stew, replaying over and over again what I just saw, or I could turn on my computer and gaze at the screen until my eyes glossed over. I chose the latter.
I’m not saying it’s the healthiest way to cope with this entire experience. I exercise every day, talk to friends both here and home, and write in a personal journal to help round out my de-stressing routine. What I’m saying is while extensive screen time is often painted as a villainous thing, to be avoided and shunned, for some of us it has given us back something irreplaceable: our sanity.