Some time ago, I started binge-watching The Magicians for no particular reason. It looked sweet and vaguely reminded me how much I enjoyed all the Harry Potter books and movies, so it seemed only fitting as a backdrop to my DYI projects and cooking.
(if you ever want to get into this show, spoilers ahead)
I didn't expect its fourth season to be particularly different from the bizarre, slightly over the top and enjoyable three that came before it, but it became more meta with every episode. I particularly enjoyed that they decided to kill off the main male protagonist, and not revive him in the next season. And that they put a lot of commentary into an episode focusing on women's stories and their impact on the bigger picture. I usually don't expect too much from my background tv shows, so it was a nice surprise.
It reminded me of role-playing games that I used to enjoy with friends. That the best stories were the ones in which we weren't overly attached and identifying with our chosen personas, but rather engaged in a bigger picture and enjoying their context. Like the war game story where everyone had four characters, because they were dying off so quickly while trying to figure out what that haunted bunker was for. Or the space opera in which we switched bodies and personalities as inter-galactic travellers, since a single human body is not made for a journey of this length.
This in turn made me reflect on the quarantine. How my tiny little piece of the puzzle is not all that important, as there are many of us, trapped in this world-wide conundrum, but my choices can still have a big impact on the story. If I stay home and distance myself, I can help not become infected and pass it on. If I decide to go against the rules that people smarter and more experienced in public health devised, I can make things worse for a lot of people.
This is one of those times where disengaging from my story and focusing on the bigger picture makes for a better outcome. The minor inconveniences and the boredom that entails are not just my personal struggle, they're a building block to something meaningful. And while I'm no longer religious nor do I feel a deep connection with people around me, stepping out of my ego helps me cope.
It also made me think about "The Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth" and its main premise - deciding on a goal and acting accordingly. What would a reasonable, caring human do in this situation? With every decision that comes, what are the steps that lead me to my overall goal? If I view things in the context of that bigger motivation, the bigger story, I can be more than okay with them - I can agree and accept them with conviction.
Building up empathy - for people around me, for those I'll never meet, for many of the possible future Alicjas - is enjoying and taking part in the story that we build together. Doing so with awareness and understanding, not just as a bystander.