Every week in the month of October, I will be sharing reflections on the Very Scary Things I’ve had to face in 2020 — emotionally, physically, spiritually. This is the second installment. For the previous one, read here.
Unsurprisingly, months of isolation and social distancing can make you feel lonely. We’ve all felt it at one point or another, the reverberating pang of desire for companionship while safe at home, alone or with a small number of loved ones. I have been unemployed for the last 6 months with no visible prospects that could change this reality. Because my husband works in a high-risk job as far as COVID is concerned, I have vowed to balance the risk for our household by staying inside as much as possible. No really — because we only have one car, I am stranded at home five days out of the week. (I could walk places if I really wanted to, but most places of any interest around my area require at least a bus to get there, and that’s a hard no from me.)
So, I am alone. Alone with my thoughts. Taking stock of my life until this point. And it didn’t take me long to realize in quarantine that when I’m alone, I am often feeling lonely.
I am an introvert with social anxiety, a self-sufficient Earth sign who grew up as an only child. I’ve learned to enjoy my own company. Most of the time, I do. I generally like myself and my mind. Yet I feel a hunger, a yearning for not just human interaction, but intimate, platonic connection. I want a village. I crave a community.
If 2020 had a tagline, it would be “Going Through It,” because that is what it has forced us to do. Go through it, whatever “it” is for you. I knew going into this year what I wanted out of it: this was going to be the year I stepped out of comfort and into vulnerability by actively seeking new friends in new social settings. One of my curses is that the folks I feel emotionally closest to are geographically furthest away from me, i.e. I seem to venture into long-distance close friendships that I maintain through infrequent digital connection. My IRL social group is largely made up of people I only knew through my college roommate, who I don’t speak to that often anymore. Very few of my social connections (outside of work-related ones) are organic, and though I’d begun to realize this before the pandemic hit, I’ve mulled over this fact extensively in my Alone Time.
Each of us has our own “it” that we’re going through, so needless to say even the tightest of friendships have been tested this year. I’ll text people only for them to not respond for days, weeks even. When that happens, I feel discouraged from texting those people again, for fear of being a burden. By the same token, I’ve had people not reach out to me during personally trying periods of this year (the second anniversary of my dad’s death in the midst of the first George Floyd protests; a police shooting and protests not too far from my hometown) and felt heartbroken at the silence. It was in this silence that I heard the following message loud and clear: you need better community. You need a community.
I would love to blame everyone else for my lack of close interpersonal relationships. Trust me, as a Virgo, you have no idea how much I would love to do that. It is a hard pill to swallow that I share some of the blame. I either hold people at arm’s length, anticipating that a closer distance will lead to an inevitable letdown, or I invest too much in singular people, having idealistic expectations that they will mirror the love I give them back to me. In both situations, I have been disappointed by people that I thought would show up for me emotionally in ways that they never agreed to. These are crosses I’ve had to bear, and will continue to, in my journey to community.
It is petrifying to come to terms with the life you’ve built for yourself and feeling sometimes that you are powerless to change it. I’ve fleshed out the life that I want to live post-COVID, and I mourn for all of the years I existed socially as a ghost of myself. I shed tears for my 20s, years I mostly spent shrinking myself to fit others’ images of me, to hold on to relationships that were unbalanced, to hide parts of me I thought would make me unlovable. I deserve to be the fullest expression of my spirit.
When we enter the garden of whatever lies on the other end of this deeply traumatic time, I want to move West. I will be closer to Mama Earth and her wonder. I will be authentically me and build community from scratch. It will be scary, yes, but the only way in my mind that I’ll do it is if I’m forced. I smile and imagine creating a family for myself, with my husband and a network of friends and colleagues. I no longer want to accept connections out of desperation or loneliness. I want to choose my family for myself.