By Elizabeth McCafferty
It’s March 2020. I’m eating my lunch, crying to a friend because I’ve been ghosted, whilst simultaneously trying to fix my broken laptop (wouldn’t recommend).
I entered lockdown in sheer terror and was on the verge of a total meltdown.
Even before Covid19, my career was a swinging pendulum of highs and lows. I clung to any hope that my future in acting could endure this and I went into total despair. Instead of practising self-love and baking soda bread, I let myself spiral into a productivity frenzy to try and ‘take control of my destiny’.
“You love reading!” my mum said, as I trashed the kitchen attempting to make gnocchi from scratch. “Why don’t you do more of that?”
This comment spiralled my overactive brain into a whole range of new possibilities in the cyber world. I’d already deactivated Instagram; it was a feeble attempt to not encourage my narcissism-induced anxiety. Could booktubing* be my big break in the world of kooky creatives and millennial influencers?
*It means reviewing books on YouTube, for those scratching their heads.
I proceeded to make a YouTube account. A wave of happiness surged through me; this could be the climb to stardom I never knew I needed …I’ll be rolling in cash from all those ads, I’ll become one of those ‘industry’ people who are just everywhere y’now? Acting jobs will of course come FLOODING IN…MY LIFE IS SORTED! GOD I’M SMART AND CREATIVE AF.
Evidently, my anxious chimp brain was spiralling out of control trying to cope with the instability that so many of us had been faced with. To be honest, the reality of having a YouTube channel made me feel like a right knob 90% of the time. Hearing myself say, “Hi guys, welcome back to my channel,” to my 30 subscribers tipped me over the edge. Seeing as 3 of my main fans consisted of my mum, dad and brother, it was time for a reality check.
It was genuinely the most unauthentic thing I’ve ever done in my life. I spent hours making the account, filled with stop motion videos, moving graphics and pedantically analysed notes. Instead of making this a fun, relaxing way to pass time, I’d spend hours googling how to clone out my spots and had a complete breakdown over my looks. I’d redo videos over days and days because I didn’t like my make-up, or I noticed a plant was dead in the background. I even started planning my outfits because I got that little buzzy feeling when someone said they liked what I wore. The thumbnail alone would take about forty minutes of me fake smiling, whilst struggling to balance 5 books on one hand for the pose. I’d be reading 5 books a week whilst still googling how to speed read, so I could churn out more.
When there weren’t enough people watching my videos, I’d over analyse every detail thinking, IT MUST BE ME, I’M NOT GOOD ENOUGH. GIVE THE PEOPLE WHAT THEY WANT.
But what was this all for? In my head, I was doing this to help stay productive, but it was actually doing the complete opposite.
I was so scared that lockdown would lead to failure. The pressure that I might not work for over a year and that the industry would forget who I was (if they even knew who I was in the first place*) became like a pressure cooker in my brain.
*that’s a no.
If ONLY I was an internet sensation, I’d be fine, as I’d be rich and have loads of job offers to fall back on after this was over!
Anxiety does not discriminate, and this is something I need to remind myself daily. At the end of the day, I’m an actress that’s not working right now and that’s… okay?
I don’t really want to be a YouTube sensation. I closed my account and not in a sad way, but in a way where I could laugh about my creativity sometimes getting the better of me.
I’d be lying if I said that the anxiety that I would never be taken seriously as an actress if they ever found my booktube account didn’t lead to many sleepless nights. Naturally, this is exactly why I’m writing an ‘extremely self aware, comedic article’ about it.
I’ve stopped ticking off lists every time I read a book. Having had so much time off during lockdown, it’s very easy to feel the pressure to write a Bafta winning script, hop onto a Skype meeting with Spielberg, paint a masterpiece, or learn 5 languages.
What I have learnt is you do not need to force yourself to be productive, just because you have unexpected time off.
For the first time in my life, I was okay with not working and not having any job prospects. I’ve found strength in healing my mind and become humbled by watching people risk their lives day after day to help others. It’s made me realise that whilst I was scrambling around worrying about myself, I’d forgotten what really matters. Whilst I’d been selfish, I’d forgotten the selfless.
Productivity shouldn’t make you weep with exhaustion. Productivity should empower, excite and move you to do great things. Great things can be as small as eating crisps and watching a film that’s been on your list for 5 months with a friend on zoom. If your productivity isn’t doing that for you right now, stop, recoup, give yourself a hug and allow yourself the day off. We are in this together, lockdown hasn’t been your failure, it will be your comeback.
Thanks for tuning into my channel guys but also, it’s safe to say… never again.
The opening to my channel, please watch as it took me way too long to go unnoticed.