You know the movie Groundhog day? You know the one with Bill Murray? Well, for those of you who don’t, there’s this cynical weather man named Phil (played by Murray) who gets trapped in a time loop that forces him to relive Groundhog day (February 2nd) on repeat, indefinitely. I will try not to ruin too much of this film for you (sorry mom but you had over 27 years to watch this movie), but essentially the movie follows Murray who realises that he is trapped within February 2nd where everything and everyone is on repeat. While at first Murray uses this time to indulge himself in patterns of debauchery; knowing that there are no negative repercussions for his actions - inevitably the repetitive nature of the day begins to wane and he loses himself in despair. What finally breaks him of this negative cycle is the day when he realises that he could use this time and his knowledge of the repetitive loops to change himself and others (also with the help of Andie MacDowell’s character ‘Rita’). My favourite part of the film is when he uses this time to learn french, to play the piano, become an ice sculpturist, and quite literally save people from accident and misfortune. The premise of the movie is so fascinating because it forces us to ask the question about what we would do if we were in a similar situation? Would we use this time for personal development and growth like Murray? Or would we find ourselves stuck in his pre-growth mindset? What would it be like to be trapped in a time loop? How would we cope?
The idea of this time-loop or a day on repeat has come up elsewhere of course. Think of the movie Fifty First Dates, in which Drew Barrymore’s character Lucy suffers from short-term memory loss and so relives the same day over and over. While she is largely unaware that she is doing so, all those around her continue to replay the day that she had the accident in order to keep her from feeling stressed or overwhelmed- her dad and brother going so far as to watch the Sixth Sense every night for years on end. Even an episode of the Vampire Diaries (yes I fully admit to having watched all 7 seasons), has two main characters trapped in a time warp where they are forced to live the same day on repeat, yet remain fully conscious of the fact that they are doing so. Every morning they must eat the same pancake breakfast and every day follow the same routine. Before I Fall is a film about a young high-school student who is forced to relive the day that she died over and over again in an attempt to change its outcome. The notion of being trapped in time, of having to relive the same day over and over again fascinates us, alarms us, and quite often scares us. While I cannot fully relate to what this would be like on a more permanent basis (or even on the scale that is presented in some of these films), today I am beginning to get a sense of what it might look like. Today for me feels alarmingly like groundhog day.
Today I got up and began my usual morning routine of workout, shower, coffee, breakfast. I put on the same ‘morning motivation’ playlist. I put back on the same comfortable grey sweatpants, and I sat at the same desk and computer where I again continued to transcribe interviews for most of the day. I had lunch on the balcony, I read some of my book during an afternoon break, and I will no doubt read again while waiting for dinner to be delivered; in which case I will sit with my ipad and watch an tv show episode or a movie while eating before brushing my teeth and going to sleep around 10pm. Of course there are slight variations in my day, just like in Murray’s, that are based around my personal decisions and choices made. But largely today is Groundhog day. In reflecting on this, however, I began to realise that many of us probably feel like this during a work-week- like cogs in a machine going through the motions. This is perhaps why so many of us try to do things to break it up, like go on a holiday, go out on a weeknight, take hikes in the woods or swims at the beach, and generally try to live. We take on new tasks and set goals for ourselves, we sign up for courses and learning opportunities, or we volunteer in our communities. Murray’s character began to find greater solace and benefit from spending his days not only making his life better, but also the lives of those around him as well. In the end this is what helped him break his cycle of routine and disrupt the time loop. So. The question remains. When I get out of quarantine, how am I going to make the most of each day?