Finding Myself Alone: Navigating a Global Pandemic When You Have No Idea Who You Are
Do you remember March? That final week of normal before we were sent home for six months? For me, that doesn’t feel like seven months ago, instead when I think of March I think of what feels like a different lifetime.
The pandemic hitting was hard for everyone. All of sudden we were supposed to pick up and just not have a life? It was hard, and strange, and annoying, but necessary. When I went home March 14th I talked to my mom and we decided that until things really changed none of us would be leaving the house for anything other than essentials, and even those grocery trips were limited and I often stayed home. I was newly 20 years old adult and it was supposed to be my spring break, I was devastated.
In addition to that, my own life wasn’t the best: I had gotten out of a long-term relationship, lost my grandmother, and went through more personal challenges. I just wanted a break. Though when I thought break, I didn’t mean a six month long spring break where I was stuck inside with only my thoughts and famous whipped TikTok iced coffee. But, here I was.
It wasn’t until I got the email about us continuing school online for the rest of the semester that I felt defeated. I guess it was naive of me to think those two weeks of isolation and rigorous handwashing would be enough for us to come back to campus, but this is my first global pandemic, give me a break.
When my mom asked me how I felt about the news I didn’t want to be honest, but I felt hopeless sitting in my childhood bed at 20 years old with absolutely no excitement in my life. I kept telling myself, “no one is having fun, it’s not like you’re missing out on anything”, but it didn’t matter. I was always feeling lonely, stressed, overwhelmed, and lost.
It felt like the challenges just kept coming and coming. I wanted so badly to get through this part of time and get back to “normal”, I wasn’t thinking, just doing. I felt like a robot, completing my assignments, going to class, and then sleeping. My days began to blend together. With my motivation wrecked, I came to terms that “normal” may be a long ways away. What was I supposed to do with myself? Who even was I at this point?
I have always hated being alone. When I was little I wasalways with my mom, and after that I still liked to stay occupied with friends. This pandemic tested my fear of being alone day after day. I was proud that I could get through one more day, but the idea of doing it all over again was daunting. It only became worse when I remembered I had no idea how long this cycle would last.
When the semester ended and I no longer had a regular routine, it really began to hit. I was hardly getting out of bed, my own mom who I lived with would tell me she hardly saw me all day, and when I was up I did nothing but lay around and try to avoid thinking. I was scared to be alone with my thoughts, I was scared of feeling lonely, but the scariest part was I was already living in an unhealthy way despite trying to ignore my thoughts. I realized through this that running away from my fear of being alone would only make this quarantine harder. I had to face the fact that I was alone. I had to acknowledge it, sit in it, and accept it. Then I had to learn how to be alone.
One small little silver lining of this all was the new amount of free time I had. If I wanted to be better I would have to do better, and this time was exactly what I needed to do better this time. Everyday I added something new to my routine until I had a full one that challenged me just enough to get myself motivated to go through the day, but not too much to where I felt like it may be impossible. I also started to write. I learned that just because I was alone didn’t mean I shouldn’t actively be communicating with myself about my emotions and my day. When I would write, I felt like I was talking to another person, letting them know how I was doing, and I could get really honest and organize my thoughts better than I had before. Although I knew I couldn’t go out and do things for both my safety and the safety of others, I knew I could instead make it a point to sit outside and get fresh air and sun even if it was just my front yard for a few minutes.
I don’t know when exactly it shifted but at one point, I looked around and realized that I was alone, yes, but I was no longer lonely.
This didn’t happen overnight, or even over a month.I am still learning everyday how to love and value my own company and solitude. This quarantine presented us with a number of new challenges, but without it I don’t know if I would have been able to appreciate who I am when I’m on my own.
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