A Creative in Quarantine: Month by Month

by Christina Colgan

Photograph courtesy of Todd Estrin Photography

Six months.

It’s been six long months since the city shut down and the world was put on pause. Maybe my hindsight is just 20/20 (no pun intended), but I felt like I was really on track to figuring out my career, relationships, and life in the Big Apple those first couple months of the year. And then COVID happened. So, what did I do and how did I cope when life took a devastating turn for the worse?

Month 1 was met with vacancy.

Like literally everyone else on the planet, I didn’t know what to expect, how to feel, or how to process everything that was going on. I am one of the lucky ones, where the only thing I lost was a job and sense of stability. But witnessing my industry collapse, watching half my friends move out of NYC, and waiting around in an apartment at the epicenter of a pandemic left me overwhelmed.

So, I did what a lot of people do when life gets overwhelming: I turned to Netflix.

And let me tell you, if you haven’t already started watching Schitt’s Creek, you really should.

Month 2 was met with restlessness.

After finishing all five available seasons of my new favorite show and all three seasons of another show (and maybe a lot more seasons of a few more shows), I felt lost. I missed acting. I missed being on set. I missed reading a script. So, I decided to take matters into my own hands and make my own TV show.

I immediately contacted my favorite actor (my dog, Barkley) and asked him to be the lead, I held auditions (I didn’t have many options so I ultimately had to go with my husband), I drafted out a timeline, created an NDA for the main actor to chew on, and wrote a script for this six-episode soap opera I titled, Dogs of Our Lives. And maybe I was high off the adrenaline of producing my own show, or maybe my dog gave me the confidence I always needed; but this dopamine fix led me to email an agent I had auditioned for but got rejected by six months prior (pre-COVID) to let her know what I had been up to and to invite her to the virtual series premiere of my new fake show. And before you go judging me, just remember this was like 30 days into quarantine, so I think we can agree we were all a little delusional at this point. But lo and behold, two days later she was my agent. Now, I’m not saying Dogs of Our Lives helped me get this agent, but I’m also not not saying that either.

What I am saying is that you should always try, even if it’s scary or out of your range of expertise, because you never know where it might lead.

I’m not necessarily referring to quantifiable success – I consider my directorial debut a win simply because I had a lot of fun doing it.

Month 3 was met with exuberance.

I felt empowered to do absolutely anything so I tried to do absolutely everything. I started taking acting classes (five to be exact), I tuned into every live Instagram video any casting director/agent/manager/etc. had to offer, I started teaching myself how to speak in a British accent (it was bloody hard and did not last long), I applied to more agencies and got two more agents in the process, and I finally started acting again. It felt amazing to be busy. I began to feel like I didn’t have enough time; there was always something else I could be studying, something more I could be practicing, something else I should be doing.

Subsequently, Month 4 was met with burnout.

I had been fixated on the fact that I needed to get ahead in my career because I had been given this gift of free time. As the city started reeling back its restrictions, the auditions slowly came drifting in. With all these new skills and classes under my belt, I was ready to take on the industry. However, the feeling wasn’t reciprocated and I was welcomed with radio silence. But then, I took a second to really listen. And I heard the sirens; I heard the desperate cries of injustice; I heard the shouts of despair; and I took a break to really listen and learn. I read some books, I joined the protests, I started painting, I mourned with the world, I watched the sunset, I breathed.

Month 5 was met with determination.

I began thinking about the things I have control over, and actively started moving toward changes I could actually work on; no matter how small or insignificant my steps looked. I started using bar soap to reduce plastic, I started turning my phone off, I started making oat milk at home, I started speaking up and using my own voice. But then I started wrestling with my choice in career. There are people out there making a difference, saving lives, and I chose… acting? Well, I thought about it. I thought about it a lot. And I’ve come to terms with the fact that I’m no superhero (though I’d absolutely love to be cast as one someday), but I believe in the power of art and creativity and the positive impact it can
have on the world. In some of my darkest times, I’ve turned to movies and music. In times of limited understanding, I’ve seen TV shows that have enlightened me and challenged my personal perspective. In times of not knowing how to express myself, I watched a film that perfectly articulated what I was going through. And other times, art has made me laugh so hard my belly hurt; or smile so big my cheeks were sore; and has always inspired me to reach for the stars. I realized I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be because I think the world needs a little more of that these days.

Photograph courtesy of Tiff.gif Photography

Month 6 was met with hope.

I got an email from a production company that I had worked with in January saying they had an upcoming shoot they wanted me in. Then, I got a text message from the owner of a studio I worked at last September for a big name commercial he thought I’d be perfect for. And then, I got a phone call from a videographer I had worked with last December saying he had me in mind for a short film he had written. And just like that, the jobs started rolling in!

I was ecstatic that my hard work was paying off! Although not in the way I originally had in mind. Most of the jobs I was getting were from relationships I had established with people I made on various sets before the virus.

All these exhilarating opportunities + the sobering realization that we had just spent half a year in quarantine = the perfect blend of passionate delirium I needed to throw my hands in the air, yell at a responsibly loud volume “Why not!?” and apply for Miss Dog Mom 2020. Not what you were expecting, was it? Neither was I, but now I’m a finalist and will be participating in the pageant at the end of the month. So, yeah, this is where 2020 has brought me. But hey, you never know where it might lead.

I wanted to look back and be proud of what I did these past 6 months.

I’m not going to sit here and tell you that quarantine was secretly a productivity competition. I would’ve definitely been disqualified from all the movie-watching and phone-scrolling I took part in.
But I did get some good quality creative work in, and I can rejoice and celebrate these sparse yet exciting victories. Most importantly though, I grew. I educated myself in things I had been ignorant towards, I confronted existing beliefs I had, I admitted to myself when I was wrong, and I took some leaps when I didn’t know when or where my feet would touch the ground.

And it was all worth it. I am worth it.

Photograph courtesy of Tiff.gif Photography

A note from the Editor:

I was lucky enough to find Christina when I was casting my TV pilot “Under the Influence” this time last year. She was a fast friend, intuitive scene partner, and brought such light to our show. Her energy is irreplaceable, both on and off screen. And, if you know her, you can hear her voice throughout this wildly authentic recount of her time staying creatively balanced during the pandemic. She is a hustler, as is her dog Barkley, and together, quarantine or not, they’re still makin’ magic.

Published by tarallew

Actress, Writer, & latte-loving Manhattanite ✨

2 thoughts on “A Creative in Quarantine: Month by Month

  1. congratulation Christina, you are one very smart young lady, and you are so very beautiful, you should had been chosen as Miss America for 2021.

    Like

  2. Christina, your blog has inspired me to think about starting my own blog. I so understood the emotions you felt when you realized this virus was for real, and while our reactions, plans, hoped and dreams are different, both perspectives are valid. I look forward to sharing mine.

    Like

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