Work From Home is a new vertical dedicated to life and culture in the strange and unprecedented situation of self-quarantine that many of us are dealing with right now. From what to watch to how to get a fit off and how to not think about anything, this is our guide to the great indoors. For updates on the spread of COVID-19 and how to keep yourself safe and informed, consult WHO and the CDC.
Ever since I started “self-quarantining” in order to protect my immune system from coronavirus, I have been referring to this period as the “Age of Rona.” When I’m not working from home during office hours, I spend most of my free time preparing nourishing meals, binge-watching the new season of Elite on Netflix, listening to music that reminds me how it once felt to be touched by the sun, washing my hands as if my life depended on it, and checking in on the status of the line outside the nearest Trader Joe’s.
Ahead of the pandemic panic, Willow Smith announced that she would be trapping herself in a glass box with her partner, Tyler Cole, at the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art for 24 hours in an effort to raise awareness about anxiety (and promote their newly released collaborative project, The Anxiety). The performance art piece would depict the full spectrum of anxiety in the form of written affirmations displayed on the canvas walls, but they would not be permitted to speak to each other. The exhibit was live streamed on Twitch for those that could not attend in-person.
I recall laughing quietly to myself at my desk upon first reading about the showcase because there honestly couldn’t have been a more appropriate time to retreat to isolation with everything that was going on. Since then, the state of affairs has escalated, though. The concept of “social distancing” once had me rolling my eyes to the back of my skull because it’s really just a buzzier word for hibernation mode. But then came Friday and all of my plans were suddenly cancelled out of fear of mingling in public spaces that might be contaminated and potentially becoming low-risk carriers of the virus.
I had nothing to do, nowhere to go, and no one to see. So when my colleague asked if I could check out The Anxiety and share my opinion on it, I felt useful again. It was at this precise moment that I had one of those “life imitates art” moments. As someone who suffers from an anxiety disorder, I felt mutually understood by the nature of this material, and it became an ideal distraction from all the chaos.
Between the pent-up angst and paranoia, the duo presents us with a sonic palette deeply rooted in punk and progressive rock. The project opens in a fit of rage with “Hey You!” and “Fight Club,” the sound of shouting drowning out the rest of the noise. The mood shifts toward a brighter mindset on “Believe That,” which practically offers a prayer for life post-coronavirus in the chorus: “I’ve been looking for some hope, I need that/ I’ve been out here tryna cope, believe that.”
The middle is a bit of a lo-fi blur, but fast-forward to the track “Are You Afraid?” to experience one of those long-awaited exhales when your body finally starts to calm down after a panic attack. On this track, Smith and Cole take turns reciting the following verse: “Moments, feeling like we’re everlasting/ And I can’t stop laughing/ I can feel the time passing/ That’s the anxiety attacking/ And I’ve been through all the sad shit/ So I’mma let you have this/ Baby, you can never throw me off balance/ I’mma need a challenge.”
“Meet Me at Our Spot” is full of youthful euphemisms with references to sending drunk texts, catching a vibe, and taking late night drives on the 405. Despite the light-hearted guitar strums, there’s actually an unsettling, restless energy leaking beneath the surface. “When I wake up/ I can’t even stay up,” Smith sings. “I slept through the day, fuck/ I’m not getting younger/ But when I’m older/ I’ll be so much stronger/ I’ll stay up for longer/ Meet me at our spot.” Because sometimes even when the desire is there, the body and mind are not in sync.
This is followed by “The System,” which sees the duo taking shots at the U.S. government and its corrupt systems that prevent everyone from coexisting. As the most political song on the project, it represents both a call for resistance and plea for humanity. “After You Cry” is the final breakdown as it closes us out on a note of compassion and understanding, with Cole gently pulling us in with some whisper pop. More than anything, the ballad serves as a reminder to be patient with ourselves during the hard times when we’re most vulnerable.
So without further ado, box yourself in and listen to The Anxiety.