Staying Apart, Together: The pandemic taught me to own my joyful obsessions

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Kelly Lawler, USA TODAY
·4 min read
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In "Eurovision," Ferrell and Rachel McAdams star as Lars and Sigrit – two underdogs competing in a European pop competition.
In "Eurovision," Ferrell and Rachel McAdams star as Lars and Sigrit – two underdogs competing in a European pop competition.

In the past few weeks, I have listened to the soundtrack to Netflix's Will Ferrell and Rachel McAdams movie "Eurovision: The Story of Fire Saga" an absurd number of times.

I've always been the kind of person who gets fixated easily, on a TV show, a movie, an album, a hobby or book. In the early days of quarantine, I listened to the original Broadway cast recording of "Dear Evan Hansen" ad nauseam, finding it the perfect amount of poppy, soothing and emotional as I adjusted to working from home.

As a kid my obsessions included the "Star Wars" films, "Charmed" and "Doctor Who." I spent a lot of time being ashamed, worried I had an overbearing personality and enjoyed TV and movies that weren't "cool." But nearly a year in the COVID-19 pandemic, I am no longer worried about what other people think about how I spend my time. "Eurovision" has brought me more joy than almost anything else of late (you should watch it if you have Netflix, it's sweet, fun and silly). So I will own the fact that what makes me smile right now is Ferrell singing "Volcano Man" and "Ja Ja Ding Dong."

It's a small thing, but in a world full of near constant, toxic stress, removing the worry that I shouldn't be loving what I love brings some relief. And that's better than nothing right now.

Today's TV recommendation

I've found the best TV show of 2021 so far. It wasn't even a contest. And though it can be sad and is about a deadly virus, I do recommend you watch. Here is an excerpt from my ★★★★ out of four review.

"It's A Sin" is the story of the 1980s AIDS crisis in London as told by a group of young friends experiencing fear, tragedy and community. Set during the pivotal decade of the epidemic, the series is heartbreaking but also joyful and wickedly funny: a deeply affecting character portrait of young lives snuffed out far too soon.

There is terrible tragedy embedded into the framework of "Sin," and the five-episode season includes a great deal of sadness. But it is not unrelenting or exhausting – much like real life, sadness is mixed with humor and joy. "Sin" is not pedantic or homework to get through. It is engrossing and emotional, without becoming overwhelming.

While HIV and AIDS figure prominently in the narrative of "Sin," it is too reductive to classify it only as an "AIDS drama." It is a series intimately in conversation with life and death, with the possibility of youth and the injustice of quashed potential. It is celebratory of the LGBTQ community, unabashedly sexy and fun, but moving and somber when it needs to be.

You can read my full review here, and watch "Sin" on HBO Max.

Nathaniel Curtis as Ash Mukherjee, and Lydia West as Jill Baxter in HBO Max's "It's A Sin," a new miniseries about a group of young friends during the AIDS crisis in London.
Nathaniel Curtis as Ash Mukherjee, and Lydia West as Jill Baxter in HBO Max's "It's A Sin," a new miniseries about a group of young friends during the AIDS crisis in London.

Today's inspiration

Hayley Arceneaux is the coolest person I've read about lately.

Arceneaux, a 29-year-old cancer survivor working at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee, will be one of four people on the first all-civilian mission to space, scheduled to launch in 2021’s fourth quarter.

A central goal of the mission, named Inspiration4, is to raise funds and awareness for St. Jude.

“I think for my patients to see someone just like them and for other survivors to see somebody who's been through cancer going to space, I think it’s going to mean so much for them,” Arceneaux said in an interview Tuesday.

Arceneaux will become the youngest American in space — beating NASA record-holder Sally Ride by over two years — when she blasts off this fall with entrepreneur and mission commander Jared Isaacman and two yet-to-be-chosen contest winners.

Not bad for a 29-year-old, huh?

Read more about Arceneaux here.

Former St. Jude patient and current St. Jude employee Hayley Arceneaux will be one of four people on the first all-civilian mission to space, scheduled to launch in 2021’s fourth quarter.
Former St. Jude patient and current St. Jude employee Hayley Arceneaux will be one of four people on the first all-civilian mission to space, scheduled to launch in 2021’s fourth quarter.

Today's reads

'Jeopardy!' executive producer (and former game-show host) Mike Richards will step behind the podium for two weeks starting Feb. 22.
'Jeopardy!' executive producer (and former game-show host) Mike Richards will step behind the podium for two weeks starting Feb. 22.

Today's pet

I received a note that I haven't featured cats in the pet section in a bit, and I am very sorry to all the cat people out there. To make up for it, here are three cats for the price of one.

Four times the cuteness here.
Four times the cuteness here.

"My two kittens Lucy and Ricky think their job is guarding cookbooks and any food on the counter and they take their job very seriously," says Jean Moore of Prescott, Arizona. "The image of my Bentley (top left) is a digital painting I did from my photograph."

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: The pandemic taught me to own my joyful obsessions