How watching movies taught me the pleasures of checking things off a list

Longterm projects can be a helpful way to relax

I can't say exactly what the origin of my idea was. After four years of college came to an end, there was suddenly so much time to devote on whatever came to mind. In search of a pleasant task to distract me that simultaneously required little to no energy it dawned upon me. Instead of just streaming the same TV series over and over again on Netflix, I decided that whenever I found myself alone in the apartment for a night I'd find a film that I really should've seen by this point in my life and make myself watch from start to finish. There was no logic to which films were viewed when, no published guide or film rankings I felt obligated to follow, just roaming streaming catalogues and old DVD piles and trusting my impulses to find whichever classic I'd managed to overlook. From goofy comedies like Princess Bride and Clue to action epics Blade Runner and Raiders of the Lost Ark and old standards like Singing in the Rain and Casablanca, this silly idea had become a full-fledged ritual.

Now why should anybody care what movies I'm watching? There are surely infinitely more important things out there for people to concern themselves with, and I certainly won't deny that. But speaking as an anxious twenty-something trying to make sense of the real world's layout, I'm just now discovering the beauty of having lists and working my way through them. For as chaotic as the world is currently for young people trying to find work, romance, housing, and any number of other vital aspects of life, it's a small to have an escape that doesn't have to reflect this disorder. Instead of grasping in the darkness for something to focus on, you have a sense of what you're looking for from your free time and walk away feeling like you accomplished something small but real.

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More so than anything else with the Internet offering troves of resources and content at your disposal, it's becoming increasingly difficult to decipher what's worth devoting your time to. Having my tiny quest of catching up to the 20th Century's best films means offers a little control to cut through the noise of endless possibilities. By taking the time to create a list or project for yourself, you allow yourself the opportunity to be the focus, rather than feeling like you're trying to catch up to whatever the rest of the world is doing.

If you're looking for any further instructions on the practice, well you're likely out of luck. To someone this may be the sort of thing you keep in your back pocket for a rainy day, while others may choose a more pressing or regimented project with their list. The truth is, just having this structure to however you choose to decompress offers a surprisingly rewarding sense of accomplishment to even the slightest task. And while it may not solve all my problems, I'll keep working my way through these films and savoring that feeling of checking another thing of my list.