Miserable & Magical: Bring on the books and blanket forts

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I’ve been in self-isolation for about a month now and I keep wishing I was a kid or teenager so this wouldn’t be as stressful.

And not a kid of today, but the kid I was in the 1990s and early 2000s when smartphones weren’t a thing and kids were generally less aware of the world around them.

I think what I really want is for someone else to take care of me and keep the stress and fear outside of my bubble. 

Unfortunately this isn’t possible.

I’m very much responsible for my own wellbeing and have absorbed my fair share of stress and anxiety over the past month. (Shout out to the six different Health Insurance Marketplace reps who all told me different information, quoted me different prices for the same plan, and gave me different deadlines for getting coverage for April. You all ensured that I wound up uninsured during a global health pandemic. Thank you so much. Here’s to hoping I don’t die between now and May 1.)

Whew. This has taken a dark turn. OK, what I’m trying to say is that since I can’t actually go back and be a child again, I’ve naturally been gravitating toward things that I enjoyed as a child and teenager. And I didn’t even realize I was doing it until I started brainstorming ideas for this week’s column. 

One of the first things I’ve done is to let myself sleep more. I know I shouldn’t admit this, but I slept until 1 p.m. a few weeks ago. Some of you may be thinking, that doesn’t sound like indulging your inner child, that sounds like depression. And to that, I say unless you have a degree and are willing to offer free therapy to someone who’s uninsured, keep it moving.

I haven’t slept that late since I was a teenager (OK, since I was in college), and while it can feel a little shameful, it mostly feels good. And I’ve been napping more and just allowing myself to rest when I feel tired. 

I’ve also allowed myself to read and read for hours on end without feeling guilty about wasting time. As I mentioned in my last column, my reading has included young adult novels that my teenage self would have eaten up. I know not everyone has the luxury of enough time to read for endless hours, but if you do, I couldn’t support you more. Read the romance novels that you lusted after as a teen or epic fantasies that sweep you away from this current moment. It feels really good to enter another world, even if it’s not “real.”

One of the places I read recently was in a blanket fort. A fort of blankets. One that I made myself in my bedroom for my cat and me to lounge in. My brother gave up on making blanket forts with me a long time ago, and [name redacted] is never interested, so this was my first blanket fort in like 15 years. It didn’t have the strongest construction, but it was cozy, therefore serving its purpose. It was a cocoon of warmth and safety as well as whimsical and fun.

Doing things just to do them, because they’re fun or because they’re what you need or want at the moment, is something a child does. As an adult I worry about maximizing my time and finding ways to turn hobbies into side hustles. When I indulge my inner child, that pressure melts away. For the first time in years, I’ve done crafts and collages without wondering if they’d do well on Etsy or lure new Instagram followers. I’ve done them simply because they make me happy and I’ve done them just for myself. And none of it has felt like a waste of time.

During a time of crisis like this it’s been such a comfort to do things I enjoyed as a kid. Honestly, I enjoy them just as much now. It’s what I need to get through this time. Listening to what I want and need, whether it’s the voice of my inner child or the adult who was once that child, is how I’ll survive.

And, uh, being insured wouldn’t hurt either.

Kate Gardner is a Portland-based freelance writer whose work has appeared in The Washington Post, Teen Vogue, SELF, and Bustle. You can follow her on Twitter @katevgardner.