The bread and butter of quarantine

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A photo of myself literally spreading butter onto a Blu-Ray copy of "The Lord of the Rings'

Justin Leggett, Staff Reporter

When the first wave of COVID-19 panic hit, I have to admit, I really wasn’t all that worried. I figured in maybe a couple weeks or two a vaccine would come out, and we’d all be immunized and back to business in less than a month. After a week had passed, I figured maybe it would take a month. After a month had passed, I figured maybe it would take a couple months. And now we’ve hit that point, and yet still there’s not much good news to be had. All that I had figured hadn’t come to fruition, and yet, the worst part about all of this…I was starting to get really bored at home.

See, when this all began, I was actually kind of excited. Now don’t get me wrong, I pitied the lives that were lost and all that, but again, initially I figured it would all be over in a month or two. In my mind it was just a really, really long weekend, a weekend that I’d get to game, read and go on hikes whenever I wanted. I mean who would deny a pitch like that? It was what everyone dreams of as a kid: getting out of school multiple months early, not having to go to work, just getting to do whatever I want when I want. 

And so it went, for weeks that turned into months. I sat in my room for hours on end, talking to friends and playing video games and Dungeons & Dragons and then going outside for more endless hours. It was like I had fallen asleep and been thrown into a dream world where everything had reached perfection. Unfortunately for me though, when perfection is reached there is only one way things can go, and that’s in the opposite direction.

I started to feel what was wrong with all of this after the best day of my break, the day my friends and I finished our annual rewatch of our favorite show.. I woke up and just felt wrong. When I turned on my computer, my heart didn’t start to race as fast as the fans inside the machine, like it normally does; it just felt hollow. There was no excitement. I wasn’t waiting on fun to happen there because I knew it wouldn’t. When my friends started messaging me, I felt snappy, like I hadn’t had any coffee when, of course, I had already had two cups of the stuff. 

I decided I should take a break from gaming and just go walk around in the woods for a few hours. So I got all dressed in my hiking gear and set out on one of the many trails behind my house. But, for some reason, the beautiful greens and browns that made up the massive sloping banks of the slowly churning creek just seemed dull. When even my hike didn’t work, I realized what I had to do. This situation was about to go nuclear, and I had the perfect WMD. I sprinted back home and found the blue case right where it always is, my Blu-ray, extended edition trilogy case for the Lord of the Rings movies.

Within the first 20 minutes of the movie The Fellowship of the Ring I knew how to describe my problems in a way that made sense. ‘I feel like butter spread over too much toast,’ Bilbo Baggins did utter, his fingers absent-mindedly rubbing at the ring in his pocket that, unbeknownst to him, labored his every breath.” In this scenario I am, of course, Bilbo Baggins, another childhood dream of mine, and the ring is the COVID situation. 

But I already knew that.

What really made everything make sense in my mind was the secret of the butter. The quote implies that I, Bilbo Baggins, am in fact the butter, but in my case the butter is not entirely just me; it’s also my hobbies and wants, the bread being the seemingly infinite amount of time I’ve been given to indulge in all of this. Butter on toast is certainly a delicious thing, but over time, when I begin to have more bread than butter, I start to lose that taste and instead begin munching on the stale, flavorless crust that forms from an aching sense of loneliness and a desire to feel the awkwardness of a classroom once again. I start to feel less like a plump, happy hobbit of the Shire and much more like a Nazgul: dark, sad and searching for something always just out of reach.

If I was witty I’d probably say that the solution to my problem is to just buy more butter, to get more hobbies. But that would just be a temporary solution, a patch on the giant hole in my consciousness. Eventually I would once again have far too much toast to spread, because the toast seems to arrive in great, sweeping hordes. Packing up my problems in an envelope, like the one ring, and waiting on a wizard to find out how to beat them just won’t work for me either. If I could journey to some dangerously active volcano and toss my problems in, I would, but I can’t do that either. I think what will help me isn’t some fantastical journey to a land infested by Orcs and worse; I think what will solve all of my problems is fighting change with more change. If my butter isn’t enough for all the toast I have, then I’ll change just how much butter I put on every slice. I will further space out my activities; there’s no reason I should feel rushed to do the things that I like. One does not simply walk into Mordor, and one does not simply solve every problem he has on a meaningless whim.