Lived Through This

How to maintain strength, stamina, and a sense of humor in lockdown

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Photos courtesy of the author

In the days since we started sheltering at home, you have likely experienced moments of boredom. Maybe you reached the end of the internet, watched everything on Netflix, or had your third dinner. You’re cooped inside at the mercy of an invisible villain. Quarantine can be unpleasant, frustrating, and frightening, resulting in feelings of listlessness and ennui. While most people struggle with the adjustment to contained living, participating in seven seasons of reality TV helped prepare me for it.

Many competition-style reality shows like The Challenge, Big Brother, and Survivor are predicated on participants being extracted from their usual living…


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“In his prime, Dad dripped charisma…he engaged and charmed and enthralled.” — Stephan Jones, son of Jim Jones

This is not how most of us think of Jim Jones, leader of the Peoples Temple. Rather, we consider him at his worst: the megalomaniacal leader of a doomed cult. Yet this is how his son Stephan describes him, and helps explain why hundreds of people followed him to the Jonestown commune and ultimately their deaths on November 18, 1978.

Forty years after the Jonestown tragedy it remains a devastating reminder of the dark side of devotion. Hundreds of people died by…


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Image Credit: ABC

We all know people who claim to be “spiritual, but not religious,” and their proclamation is often met with eye rolls from people who think they’re playing a get-out-of-church-free card. But maybe they really are spiritual. And maybe their “spirituality” includes binge-watching Fuller House, following the Fab 5 from Queer Eye on Twitter, or reading “Only a 90s Kid Would Understand” listicles on Buzzfeed.

Sacred is sacred and profane is profane, and never the twain shall meet, or so we’re told. The nature of holiness requires it to be devoid of profanity. …


If my conscience hadn’t stopped me, I could’ve become another bitchy blonde right-wing pundit.

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The first time I realized I was a brand was in 1998. It was after I filmed the MTV reality show, Road Rules (or as I like to call it, The Wheel World). MTV had partnered with a company and they wanted to use me as the voice of the product. I was asked to read a first person script that said I was from a “small town in Pennsylvania.” Problem was, I’m not from a small town in Pennsylvania. I’m from Pittsburgh, and while it…


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This is the true story…

It’s been 25 years since The Real World debuted on MTV and unwittingly launched an entire TV genre. Hundreds of young people have participated in the televised social experiment that claims to “find out what happens when people stop being polite and start getting real.” The on-screen flirtations, fights, and friendships among the cast members create a sense of intimacy with the audience, but little is discussed about what happens to the shows’ “stars” when the cameras stop rolling.

It would be easy to imagine that after participating on a reality show, one either returns…


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Image Credit: NBC

Soothing music, emotional rhetoric, redemptive narratives. These are the elements many seek in places of worship — separate from everyday life, where people gather with their community, transform their souls, and renew their minds. Recently, however, fewer Americans are participating in traditional religion, and many are using alternative means to meet their spiritual needs. This is postmodern spirituality. This is us.

Like in the sacred spaces where people tend to their spirits, many find solace, hope, and catharsis within the profane parameters of pop culture including NBC’s hit show, This Is Us. The primetime juggernaut, which harkens back to the…


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It was January 20, 2001, and I was at George W. Bush’s inaugural ball. I had spent months campaigning for him, and it had not been easy. After the Florida electoral debacle complete with “hanging chads,” Katherine Harris (and her fifteen minutes of shame), and ultimately the Supreme Court’s Bush v. Gore decision, I was finally enjoying the fruits of my labor as I celebrated the new president that I worked to get elected.

My role in the campaign wasn’t glamorous, but I was a twenty-year-old political science, religious studies double major who saw this election as the beginning of…

Susie Meister

PhD in Religious Studies / Host of the @BrainCandyPod / Recovering Reality TV Personality / Instagram: susiemeister

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