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The joy of sitcoms

Finding a safe space in the world of sitcoms while attending college during a pandemic

One random evening in ninth grade, I decided to give in to my friends’ pleas to watch “The Office” – a sitcom following the crazy lives of Dunder Mifflin employees. Having heard overwhelmingly positive opinions about the show, I was prepared to laugh, cry and finally understand the millions of references I’d always hear about the sitcom. Yet as I played the first episode and then the next few, I thought the show was just awful. Perhaps it was my lack of taste or my subconscious desire to go against the popular opinion in order to be unique, but I simply was not drawn to the humor of “The Office.”

Flash forward a year later to 10th grade — a major step up academically from the previous year. That was the first year I felt crushed under the pressure of more advanced classes, tougher grading and extracurriculars. In this new, tense environment, I once again tried my luck with “The Office.”

As you may have guessed, this time I hopped right on the bandwagon and absolutely fell in love with the show. But my drastic shift in opinion wasn’t because I’d matured over a year or because my humor had evolved. Rather, it was a consequence of my circumstances. At a time where I was struggling with the stress of school, I needed to capture as many moments of joy as I could. And every episode of “The Office'' provided 22 stress-free, hilarious minutes. These were moments when I could temporarily swap out the reality of academic and social pressure for the world of Dunder Mifflin — where pranks and jokes dominated the office space. 

Now as a college student, the burden of schoolwork and extracurriculars has only intensified. And to top it all off, I stayed home for my first year of college because of COVID-19 — which had already severely restricted social interaction. Needless to say, it’s become even more critical for me to latch onto those moments of joy and calm in between all the madness. 

While there are other avenues for comfort in my everyday life, I find solace in the constancy of sitcoms. In a world full of uncertainty, it’s nice to be able to fall back into the familiar worlds of my favorite sitcoms. No matter the day, I can always return to the bizarre humor of Michael Scott from “The Office,” the quirkiness of Jess Day from “New Girl” and the unshakeable optimism and theatrics of Leslie Knope from “Parks and Recreation.”

In many ways, sitcoms have truly been a dose of comedy. Throughout this past year, they’ve helped me to cure the anxiety of work, the loneliness of being away from Grounds and the utter unpredictability of what the rest of 2021 holds. It may only be a temporary escape, but it’s a much needed break from the overwhelming life of a college student. 

As someone who’ll chuckle at even the cheesiest of jokes, every episode of a sitcom is overflowing with opportunities to laugh and relieve stress. However, beyond the humor, what draws me to sitcoms is the fact that no matter how ridiculous and outrageous the characters’ mistakes are, everyone still finds a way to laugh about them in the end. And for someone who stresses about every little detail in life, even these unreal and exaggerated depictions of reality have a lot to teach me. It’s nice to be reminded to not take life too seriously. Jess’ mom in “New Girl” put it best, “You have to lighten up Jess, it’s just life.”

Ultimately, I know it may sound weird — or perhaps even cliché — to derive happiness from the fictitious worlds created by sitcoms. But especially during the challenging experience of attending college while in a pandemic, a temporary escape is exactly what I need to continue moving forward.  

Whatever looms around the corner, I look forward to curling in the comfort of my favorite sitcoms whenever I feel burdened with pressure. After all, I find that it’s the seemingly insignificant moments in life that provide us with the most joy, and I’m grateful to have sitcoms as an everlasting source of inspiration and laughter. 

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