2020: My Year of Rest and Relaxation?

Olivia Furness

“I was growing less and less attached to life. If I kept going, I thought, I’d disappear completely, then reappear in some new form. This was my hope. This was the dream.” -Ottessa Moshfegh, My Year of Rest and Relaxation 

Ironically with the many self-isolation periods, tiers and lockdowns thrown our way in 2020, I found time to indulge in Ottessa Moshfegh’s brilliantly unique 2018 novel My Year of Rest and Relaxation. It follows a 25 year-old unnamed female protagonist, muddling her way through contemporary New York. Following a persistent sense of ennui and dissatisfaction with modern life, she embarks on a mission to hibernate for an entire year, hoping to awaken somewhat enlightened. To aid her mission, she recruits one of the most questionable psychiatrists to provide her with a cocktail of prescribed medication. With dead-pan humour and a self-deprecating tone, the narrator attempts to escape herself and society. I find myself thinking: I am the perfect candidate to reenact this into a screenplay, in a desperate bid to escape the pandemic. 

In the early days of the first lockdown, many were driven by an urgency to be productive, motivated and achieve all those things ‘normal life’ just wouldn’t allow time for. 2020 had us baking sourdough, drinking our way through virtual quiz nights, family Come Dine with Me’s and cramming into the front room for 9am PE with Joe Wicks. Huddling around the laptop screen, giving cursory waves to our loved ones, teaching the elderly the mysteries of Zoom, the awkward moments where someone’s internet cuts out and yelling “you’re on mute” are all familiar memories. People got creative; we did what we needed to do to get by. 

So why is it that in the middle of Lockdown 3.0, I cannot stop my eyes from rolling at the mention of ‘banana bread’? The real question is, are our social batteries dying? Are we all suffering from the dreaded ‘zoom-fatigue’? With my university seminars, socials and yoga classes all squeezed into the same environment, the many different strands of our lives are merging into one. And the truth is, Zoom just doesn’t cut it anymore. When someone even begins to suggest a virtual social event, I find myself stumbling over my words making up an excuse to swerve the call – I’ve not done so much truth-fudging since telling my P.E. teacher one of the many long-winded tales, in an attempt to get out of the campus run. 

Moshfegh’s character embodies many of us in our current state. It seems crazy to think this novel was written in 2018 but appeals to us now more than ever. In a time where we find ourselves stuck at home with the same four walls and people surrounding us, we are desperately craving an inch of normality or real-life interaction. We find ourselves wanting this to pass, hoping when we close our eyes we will wake up and this will all have been a horrible nightmare.