A Welcome Distraction from Chaos

Ethan Alonzo, Editor-In-Chief

In the midst of the chaos caused by COVID-19, sometimes a waste of time is exactly what we need.
After four weeks of practicing social distancing in my hometown, the walls were starting to close in. The days began to blend together as each day felt exactly like the one before it.
Between checking online classes for assignment updates, webcam meetings for work and researching the ever-changing statistics on COVID-19, before I knew it my greatest fear had come true: I had a routine. For someone who prefers to take each day as it comes without a set routine, this was the worst-case scenario. However, this day was different.
A package had been delivered, and the contents of that cardboard box would be the thing I needed to break the monotony of my life during the quarantine.
At the two week mark of this social distancing journey, I came across the article on Boston based pop culture magazine The Atlantic’s website titled “Tedious Cooking Is the Best Distraction.”
In this article, staff writer Hannah Giorgis tells her tale involving the Italian rice dish, risotto. For those who don’t know, risotto is a rather finicky dish to cook due to the constant attention it requires. What was interesting about this article was the realization Giorgis came to while cooking her risotto.
“For the first time in days, I’d stopped obsessing over the impending doom I’d been imagining, as news of the rapidly worsening coronavirus pandemic spread,” Giorgis writes. “There was no low thrum of anxiety beating alongside my heart, no voice in my head taking inventory of family members’ diseases or tallying the number of onions I’d have left in three, six, or eight weeks in the event of grocery-store shutdowns. There was just me, my right arm, and my stubborn risotto.”
After reading how Giorgis found solace in her complicated rice dish, I thought maybe it was time for me to find something to occupy my free time.
As someone who enjoys seeing giant robots fight in both movies and anime, gunpla has always piqued my interest. Gunpla, or Gundam plastic models, was the title given to buildable model kits based on the popular Japanese anime series of the same name. Now Gunpla has become the overarching term for any buildable model kit based on the mecha genre of anime.
So, that same day, I went online and purchased my first gunpla kit. However, due to the stress of COVID-19 and infinite boredom of being confined to my hometown, I had actually forgotten I ordered the kit.
The day came when the model kit was delivered and everything else just fell into place.
I put down whatever I was doing at the time and went straight into the building of my model kit. For eight hours straight I sat at my kitchen table with only one goal in mind: finish my build. Being a fan of the series for so long, my childlike wonder took over and nothing else mattered.
Ironically, for someone who hates a routine, that is what building gunpla is, a routine. First comes reading the instruction booklet to see what pieces you need. Then finding the plastic frame the pieces come in, commonly known as runners, and snipping the pieces out of their respective runner.
Unlike the routine of my everyday life, this routine felt more peaceful. There was no sense of urgency to complete a task. Instead of fearing what would come next in regards to COVID-19, I was looking forward to the next segment of the model kit. The repeated sounds of the snipping of the plastic and the snap of pieces coming together sounded like a mantra for meditation. This complicated robot made of vibrantly colored plastic, which should have been one of the most difficult and time-consuming things to build, was actually the most relaxing thing I had done in over four weeks.
The moment I snapped on the last piece of my model kit and took that sigh of relief, a sense of accomplishment came over me. For those who have decided to pick up a new hobby, complete a thousand-piece jigsaw puzzle, or learn a new instrument can understand what I mean. Seeing the final product of something that took so much time and effort can be one of the most gratifying sensations ever.
It may be attributed to my habit of trying to put things together when everything else seems to be falling apart, but for myself, and maybe for others, it’s exactly what we need.
At the time of writing this article, the shelter in place has been extended through May and maybe further beyond the speculated end date. For those bored at home, maybe picking up a new time-consuming hobby or activity can help the time pass.
Things are never as bad as they seem, the quarantine included. Outlook and perspective hold larger importance now than ever, so avoiding negativity can help greatly. There is no clear ending for this crazy situation, but keeping a positive mindset could make a world of difference.