Pandemic Blues, and Branching Out

Man, the pandemic has really broken me.

I walk on the opposite side of the street when I see people I recognize, I despise socializing and avoid eye contact like the Bubonic Plague, and I have been trying lots of new things to make myself happy. I’m sure there are many, many people just like me that the pandemic has affected, and the idea of just “getting back to normal” still doesn’t feel right. If there’s anyone in the world out there who feels this way, trust me, you’re not alone. I’m stoked for everyone who can get right back into the thick of it like the past year never happened, but I’m not one of those people.

I’ve become bored to tears at the idea of gaming, for one thing. The latest Indie Direct finally got me back into it to play the very much awaited Axiom Verge 2, and that has been a blast (more on that at a later date). However, aside from this, nothing has really done it for me. I didn’t even pick up Skyward Sword HD, a game I was really looking forward to (still the only Zelda I haven’t played!), but I didn’t want to commit the time, despite having the time. Know what I mean?

Then, something happened. The wife & I took a little “parent weekend” down the shore over here in New Jersey in mid-June, and we stepped into a little shop in Ocean Grove. (Quick note – if you are in the area and want to check this place out, it’s a bookstore called “The Comfort Zone“). This store has a room that is filled with a cool and very eclectic blend of goodies – books, toys, puzzles, you name it. But not just any books and toys, I’m talking about the kind of stuff we used to love – classic stuff! Road trip activity books for kids, portable mini-games of Battleship and Connect4, tiny Etch-a-Sketches, you name it.

About the Comfort Zone in Ocean Grove, NJ
They’ve got a whole wing dedicated to soaps and stuff to make you smell good, but there is a lot more in there!

There were a bunch of metal yo-yos out on display, with one sitting out of the case (like a “demo” yo-yo). See, I was really big into yo-yos back in the 90s yo-yo boom, and somehow despite not having thrown a yo-yo in, oh.. 20 years? – I was able to, first try, nail a Rock the Cradle. Sure it’s one of the first tricks you learn, but I couldn’t believe my latent muscle memory took over and knew what to do.

So I bought the thing for $7! And didn’t put it down for like 3 weeks, despite my knuckles bleeding and the thing falling apart on me probably a dozen times.

It’s only been two months now of getting back to throwing (what hobbyist yo-yo’ers call it, yeah I’m a cool kid now) and I just received my third yo-yo in the mail, an Arcade Galaxy Edition.

The Arcade – a metal, unresponsive (doesn’t come back up when you pull on it) yo-yo, my current obsession.

But, why yo-yo’ing? Heck if I know, but if I had to guess, I’d say it plays perfect to the fact that I am very fidgety, and instead of tossing a fidget spinner around like I used to, I can practice lots of tricks and get good at it, especially by seeing daily improvement. That progress is very addicting, and it’s that very progress that I believe my brain was missing!

Thinking about it now, it’s still strange to me that I stumbled upon this when I’ve been trying unsuccessfully to find happiness in the simple things again. Going back and enjoying hobbies I used to love when I was a kid, but can still enjoy as an adult, seemed like the perfect idea.

This concept is definitely not some new revelation. For my generation especially (I’m a millennial although I admittedly despise the label), the memories we have of the 1990s have been a place to seek refuge and comfort from the modern era of cataclysmic doom and bad news every time you turn around. The rediscovery of the much more simplistic 90s/early-2000s culture is not something only I’m experiencing, even as someone who has no social media presence (outside of this blog, I suppose). Seriously, I saw more 90s culture, music, and Tomagotchis the last trip to the mall than I have since the actual 90s. Perhaps the explosion of the Nintendo Switch brought otherwise non-gamers back into the gaming scene? Either way, I can only assume it has a lot to do with this generation desperately trying to find something positive – and what better place than their childhoods?

I was at a Target the other day getting – well, what else was I getting – picking up diapers – and I saw on the back wall something that was very surprising. Take a look at all these action figures! Beavis and Butthead, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Power Ranges, Napolean Dynamite (one of my favorite moveis), wait, Iron Maiden!? Who in a Target is buying action figures from awesome metal bands that saw peak popularity in the late-80s/early-90s?

The past decades are in now, and I can’t be alone in thinking that it’s for good reason. People want to go back. For me, what has helped center me has been getting back into something as simple as a skill toy, and giving myself something to learn and improve upon.

Call this post a personal update, a PSA, a drunken late-night ramble, or all three, but if you’re struggling to find joy in the things that used to make you happy, you’re definitely not alone, and I don’t have the answers – but perhaps seeking solace in something from happier times can help. Cheers and take care of yourselves out there!

One thought on “Pandemic Blues, and Branching Out

  1. Hey, my man! I feel you, and I totally understand your need for comfort and simpler, happier things. Heck, don’t we all feel that need, especially at those times?

    I, for once, completely stopped following general and social media. Too much sensory and emotional overload… My mind definitely doesn’t need this right now.

    I didn’t get bored of gaming, but I feel the need to shake things up and play differently. I’ll explain my new ways soon enough on my blog… ^^

    Anyway, more power to you in your branching-out! Discovering new things is always positive and energizing… Take care, my friend! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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