We’re Not Alone, not Even in the Middle of a Quarantine – a guest post by author Kim Oclon
“We read to know we’re not alone.” C.S. Lewis
At the start of every school year, each department was given a shirt. One year the English department shirt had all of our names on the back and a quote on the front, “We read to know we’re not alone.” Thank you, C.S. Lewis, for that wonderful reminder. We are not alone when we read. But, I’d like to expand that to say, “We read, we watch movies, we listen to music to know we’re not alone.”
If I made a list of every book, song, or film that encapsulates this quote, we’d be here for a while and I might run out of room on my hard drive, so I’d like to focus on two movies that immediately came to mind when I decided to explore this quote in terms of myself, my work, and our current state.
For me, it isn’t necessarily about having the exact same experience has one of the characters, but having the same emotions and having a place to let those emotions out. I love watching sad movies. My husband doesn’t get it. I don’t know if I completely get it. But give me a movie that lets me feel some big feelings and I will definitely watch it. Does anyone remember the 2001 film, Life as a House? I saw this one with my mom at a second-run theater as my college career was coming to an end. In a few weeks I would move to Los Angeles after graduating with a degree in screenwriting. I needed a movie that would let me get out all that end-of-college-what-am-I doing-am-I-doing-the-right thing-anxiety. And did it deliver! It might not have been the best movie, but I did cry for a good portion of the second half of the film with all the confusion and uncertainty running down my face and into a balled up tissue.
What about the 2002 film, Moonlight Mile? I saw that one when I was struggling to find a job after being in Los Angeles for several months, feeling alone and helpless. I remember being an absolute mess in the middle of the Arclight Theater on Sunset Boulevard. I’m not a man living in the 1970’s struggling with my fiancé’s murder and I’m not a teenage boy mending my relationship with my sick dad. But, when I watched these movies, I was less alone.
This quote must have been in my subconscious as I wrote my debut novel, Man Up. It is a about, David, a baseball player with a secret boyfriend. After coming out, he learns about allies roaming the halls in his school and how not only is he in need of support and acceptance but so many are in search of it too. There are teachers, other students he never gave a second glance to, and even a teammate. A subplot that unintentionally fell into this theme involves David’s dad, a carpenter who has been unemployed for a few years. Unemployment eats at him for much of the novel. His inability to find steady employment affects the whole family and it is something he dealt with on his own for a couple years.
David’s dad is not alone. David is not alone. And we’re not alone.
But right now, we are alone to some extent. Physically, but hopefully not emotionally. We are uncertain. We are confused. We are frustrated. We are sad. We are mad. In attempt to reassure my seven-year-old daughter, we talk about how not only are our friends and family feeling the same way we are, but much of the world is too.
To say I was disappointed that my launch events were rescheduled (for June…we’ll see!) would be a gross understatement. But I know I’m not alone. Other authors had their launches ruined. My friend decided to count, and she has canceled 23 events (so far) for a book that was released in February. In these times, social media has been a place to find solidarity and support. I’ve had friends, acquaintances, and friends of friends volunteer to help me strategize so this time that was supposed to be exciting and celebratory still feels like a celebration. I’m definitely not alone. If anything, my circle has grown.
I don’t think I need to watch Contagion right now or read a book set in the near-distant future that has some sort of commentary where a disease/robot/super villain threatens mankind. But I do need something that will help me find a place for all this stuff I’m feeling. I’ve been watching sitcoms before bed lately. They provide little bursts of humor that help me decompress from the day so I can get ready for the next one.
Little bursts of humor…maybe that is an accurate reflection of the current circumstances. Perhaps I need to engage with something where I see other people in unbelievable situations where things seem dire and ridiculous until some comic relief breaks the tension. Maybe it’s not the time for the sad things I usually turn to. Regardless where I find camaraderie: a sad movie, a silly show, a snarky teenager in a novel, or a song that encourages me to be better, I am not the only one searching. C.S. Lewis may have given us quote but countless artists prove everyday just how true it is.
With a background in screenwriting and fiction writing, Kim Oclon taught high school for seven years and co-founded the school’s GSA. Her first literary favorites included The Babysitters Club and Sweet Valley Twins series but she now considers The Things They Carried to be her favorite book. Man Up is her first novel.
You can purchase Man Up from Indie Bound: https://www.indiebound.org/book/9780999388631
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About Robin Willis
After working in middle school libraries for over 20 years, Robin Willis now works in a public library system in Maryland.
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