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  • Writer's pictureHannah Pearson

Living in Stand-By

RECAP

Spoiler For: My life.




You’ve been waiting all day for your show to start. Hell, maybe all week— maybe for a lifetime. Finally, it starts, the opening credits roll. You lose yourself as the climax builds, the tensions deepen, and the stakes get higher than ever, when suddenly the audio skips! The picture slips into slow-mo! And a violent screen flip to a frantic frenzy of gray static, a SHHHH sound blares out of the speaker!


Panic takes over, what’s going on? What happened? Will it go back?


Will I miss everything?


And then…. silence.


A rainbow road and the words “Please Stand-By” flood the screen.



It’s okay everyone. We just have to wait, everything will go back to normal, we won’t miss anything… in the meantime feel at ease from the “standby” screen. A safe place to live in the pause.


A television purgatory before we return to the promised land.

I realize that for many the standby screen is a relic of an unfamiliar past, but I can still remember the comfort of seeing one in the chaos of technical difficulties. Like a “Get Well” card or a lollipop from the doctor, a token to say I can’t fix the problem but there is support.


The last year of my life has been like living in a "stand-by" screen. I’m sure that’s true for a lot of people. Everyone saw the glitches last January that quickly jumped into the scary static of March closing in— the reality of a pandemic. It was especially difficult for me because I was right in the middle of a very important season of my life. I was living in New York (a dream come true) and my role as stay-at-home mommy was getting reworked. Soon I was going to have a few days off to write, finish my portfolio, and finally focus on finding the jump start for my career. Everything was in motion… the perfect preschool, the connections to people in the industry, the clear path… and then the static took over.


The months my partner, our toddler, and I stayed in New York on lockdown in a Lilliputian apartment, trying to give each other space and grace, was an overstimulating pandemonium of uncertainty, fear, and mental anguish that without a doubt has caused severe PTSD.


I don’t even know how to begin to process most of what happened last year. I haven’t been able to watch anything on television filmed in my old neighborhood without breaking into a cold sweat and hyperventilating. Rainy days or smokey days where I’m stuck at home (yay California) sometimes cause panic attacks. The sound of sirens stops me in my tracks. And anti-vaxxers send me into a blind rage. Worse, I know how this has all permanently scarred me is not even fully cast.


Seventy-two days of my life were a bottle episode for a show that had already been canceled.

Then we decided to move back to California.



With a young child, it seemed like a no-brainer. We would be closer to family and the access to the outdoors would mean I wouldn’t use our building’s stairwell as a gym. But it was heartbreaking nonetheless, I loved New York. I was desperate to know what was going to happen next if only the static hadn’t taken over.



Life here in my quaint little beach town has been like living in the floating limbo of the “stand-by” screen. It’s not great but it isn’t necessarily bad. Yes, I’d love to get back to my regularly scheduled programming but sadly I know that can’t happen, not now, and maybe not ever. I’m just grateful to feel protected from the noise and the lack of color.


It’s been almost a year now and I have made this waiting room a home. A tiny garden grows in the backyard, paint swatches are on the dining room table, and few new friends I've welcomed in my bubble to stave off the loneliness. On good days I forget the show I never finished in New York.


My life now is more like an ASMR video that drones in the background, offending no one.


Recently I went home to see my family for the first time in almost two years and I did something strange… I did not watch any TV for the entire two weeks. I just wanted to change the channel to something else, and immerse myself for a minute in anything besides the “stand by.” It was healing to be around people and places that I was afraid I’d never see again. There were shimmers of normalcy in moments of cooking dinner with my mother, arguing with my brothers, and evening porch ponderings with my father.


But some nights when everyone went to bed I sneaked into my childhood room with a bottle of wine, headphones playing early 2000s emo jams, and just sat next to a pile of old notebooks and journals— pages filled with treatments of what I thought my life would become and dreams of New York.


And not long after the trip began the news started pouring in about cases surging and I was thrown into large gatherings, a jarring ordeal after being either alone or around a handful of people for a year and a half. Every cough, sniffle, and sneeze triggered an internal alert system. The sound of distance static grew closer. When the trip came to a close I was desperate to get back to my “stand-by” screen.


So I came back to hide under the blankets, realizing I am not quite ready to leave “stand-by”.

But I can’t stay in here forever. It’s served an important purpose, a safe place to put myself on pause, but in the end, I will always need the fast-paced action, the cutting dialogue, and dramatic plot twists that life has given me. I won’t find any of that here in “stand by” land.


I’ve always used television to help me process parts of life that are hard or confusing. I know some people read self-help books or take therapy seriously, but for me, it’s watching my stories. Smashing repeat on Bo Burnham’s Inside was monumental in getting me to admit that the isolation I went through in New York took a wrecking ball to my mental health, but I haven’t found anything to help for this weird oblivion I exist in now.


I need to accept that I’m not going back to the show I was watching before.


It’s over.

I will never know how it could have ended.

I must move on.

It’s time for a new show.


But what could the new be? It could be anything… and right now my partner and I are in pre-production, pitching, and mapping out storylines. Maybe we’ll reboot New York. Maybe it’s a California spinoff set in LA. Maybe it’s another dream, in another favorite city, where people speak another language and the weather is much colder.


This week something exciting happened to wake me up and see that my regular scheduled programming was not simply life in New York. It’s writing and the hustling my way to a career in television. Even if nothing comes of this new opportunity, it’s a good reminder that life is full of technical difficulties, and I will undoubtedly face more in the future, but don’t waste life in “stand-by”.



Are You Living in Stand-By?


Side bar: While I was home I did get a radd gift from grandma. Look what she found cleaning out her attic.



My new favorite shirt :P

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