The best of ideas tend to arrive at the most random of times. As our nation started to slowly come to terms with the pandemic that is known as Covid-19, it was evident that the biggest priority for emergency preparedness was to procure an excessive amount of toilet paper. Those who prepared early stockpiled packages of bath tissue by the truckload, leaving everyone in their wake to worry if they would have enough squares to cover their daily, ahem, well, you know. It was the beginning of the end of the world, as far as bathroom hygiene routines were concerned.
As I assessed our toilet paper supply, I noted I hadn’t purchased any in a while, and realized we might soon be in a predicament ourselves. I looked online to see if any could be ordered (it couldn’t), and went to check our local stores in our small town (they were all sold out). It’s weird to come to the realization that a simple commodity could suddenly become scarce, and even more bizarre to find yourself fixating on something so stupid. There are far bigger problems to worry about, like the health of our world’s inhabitants, yet TP being sold out quickly became a focal point of everyone’s existence.
The toilet paper shortage is an embarrassing chapter that will be written in future history books about our nation.
Discovering the increased value and scarcity of toilet paper meant that as each roll of toilet paper reached its end, I found myself feeling sad. So ridiculous! Then again, maybe it’s not ridiculous at all. When we face times of stress, of panic, of pandemics and a world full of unknowns, we tend to grasp for what we know to cope. We seek comfort in having our basic needs met, we desire stability. We cling to the familiar to keep us afloat, and when the predictable disappears, we find ourselves struggling to keep our heads above water. We would be remiss to not acknowledge that there’s a certain amount of grief that comes from the losses of our every day comforts, of our routines, of our sense of normal.
The idea that we could be sad over the end of a roll of toilet paper struck me as absurd, yet somehow hilarious. What if we actually took time to acknowledge our loss? What if we had funerals for our dearly departed rolls?
I couldn’t quit thinking about it, so I decided to run with my idea. Absurd humor is kind of my thing, I can’t help but embrace who I was born to be. I told my husband my plan, and he half-laughed. My teenage sons were not fans of the idea. I think all three of them thought I was kidding.
One afternoon while everyone was engaged in other activities here at home, I decided to attempt what I envisioned in my head. I grabbed the recently emptied roll and tried to decide how best to anthropomorphize a cardboard tube.
Thinking to myself, I pondered what would work best. It needs a face, obviously, but I can’t draw a face to save my life. And like a flash of lightning, a moment of inspiration came to me. X X
It was all downhill from there. With my favorite fine-point Sharpie in hand, the face came to life, accurately reflecting a cartoon-like death. Two Xs for eyes, two dots for nostrils, and a simple frown. I laughed as I stared at the face, it was simple, childish, and everything I hoped it would be. Within a few minutes I filmed all of the scenes I had plotted in my mind.
For the first time in days, my mind was removed from the stress of the pandemic. I was no longer concerned about how I was going to face the oncoming months, the uncertainties over work, the worries over the health of my loved ones, the stress about my sons’ educations. I was simply living in a joyful moment. It was divine. I laughed as I edited the footage, completely lost in the silliness as I put clips together.
When it was finished, I showed it to my family. My husband laughed, my oldest son looked at me as though he wasn’t sure how to process it, and my youngest contemplating disowning me. One of my sons started to say something, then stalled. When I asked him to spill his thoughts, he said, “I hate to say it, but you know that’s totally something that would do well on Tiktok.”
And I laughed.
For months I’d made jokes and empty threats that if my sons didn’t do something, or got into trouble, I would join Tiktok as a punishment. Neither of my sons are on Tiktok, they just find the idea of the app in general to be super “cringey.” They insist it’s the worst, even though they’ve never used it. I thought it hilarious that a threat of joining an app could be so devastatingly embarrassing to them, so to hear them even suggest such a thing was confirmation I was on to something.
I posted my finished video on my social media accounts and, from the first reactions I received, it made people laugh. I was glad, because at that point I already had ideas growing for how I could create another one. And then a third idea popped into my mind, followed quickly by a fourth. I opened up the notepad app on my phone and started penning ideas as they came, ordering them by priority and what I thought I could actually accomplish.
After quickly writing a few of my ideas, I stopped and assessed what I was considering. I weighed not following through with my next video after all. I heard a faint whisper of a voice asking me how others would react if I doubled-down on this premise. Would they roll their eyes and think I’m immature? Would they find me foolish, childish even? Would they think I’m not taking this pandemic seriously? Would I be wasting my time, only to embarrass myself?
I told the voice to shut up.
If, in the midst of a terrifying pandemic, I had the ideas and ability to create something that could bring laughter to others, how could I not share them? If I could give a moment of joy to someone, why would I choose otherwise? I am a firm believer in embracing absurdities and spreading joy, no matter how ridiculous I may appear to some people. Joy breathes life into us, even in the darkest days. Joy draws us out from what overwhelms us and reminds us we still exist.
Joy is an act of rebellion, and Rebel is my middle name.
(Okay, so it isn’t really rebel, but I’ve never been a fan of my actual middle name and often considered changing it. Maybe I’ll change it to Joy Rebel. Jaklyn Joy Rebel Larsen has a fun ring to it…)
I never imagined my initial RIP TP would be the beginning of something, but as I write this I am fourteen videos in, and have no plans to stop.
I am convinced that the world needs more joy, it needs our creativity, it needs us to fearlessly embrace the absurd.
Who’s with me?