While it may sound strange, I feel far less lonely now than I did before the pandemic.
Over the past year, I’ve felt conflicted about acknowledging silver linings—as if doing so dismisses the horror of it all. But the truth is, amongst the profound grief and anxiety and despair, I’ve discovered pockets of positivity for myself. Little joys and meaningful growth. I’ve made some changes to my priorities that I intend to keep alive, even when the world “opens up” again.
Pre-pandemic, I felt a pressure to pack my calendar, weekends filled with hikes, concerts, bar crawls, and brunches. Every time I went out, I documented the event on social media, to make it seem like I had an active and exciting social life. And yet, I always felt like I wasn’t doing enough or that I didn’t have enough friends—as if being perceived as interesting, adventurous, and popular mattered more than the reality of my life. (Frankly, I think being a loner in my adolescence fueled my need to redeem myself online as an adult. Sounds pathetic, but at least I can admit it.) Fixating on other people’s opinions left me with a near-constant feeling of inadequacy and loneliness.
I no longer felt shame for spending time alone.
When the world shut down, a lot of us were forced to spend more time at home, in solitude. Fortunately, I don’t live alone; I have an amazing roommate, and together, we could entertain ourselves endlessly. That said, I adapted rather quickly to the relative quietness of lockdown life. Now that there wasn’t a pressure to be doing things with other people all the time (a pressure I imposed on myself), I no longer felt shame for spending time alone. I started writing more, reading more, drawing more. I felt like me again. I hadn’t quite realized that I’d felt so disconnected from myself.
Don’t get me wrong: I miss people. I miss seeing my extended family. I miss basic LA brunches with my friends. I miss striking up conversations with kind strangers in coffee shops. I miss the hustle and bustle of walking down city streets, people watching every step of the way.
At the same time, I love how comfortable I’ve gotten with myself. The more I enjoy my own company, the more confident I feel that others will enjoy spending time with me, too. I don’t feel like I have something to prove anymore, which allows me to live in the moment. I used to document every outing for the consumption of others. These days, I often forget to take pictures; or I take pictures and choose to keep them to myself. I prioritize the experience over the “content” I can generate from it, as I should’ve all along.
Now, the interactions I do have with other people feel even more authentic and powerful.
As we inch closer to reentering public spaces, I’m nervous that I’ll forget these revelations and fall back into my old insecurities and habits. (Tbh, I’m nervous about reentering the social scene in general. Please tell me I’m not the only one.) That said, I’m hoping this blog will help. While I’m still curating content for someone else to consume (hello reader), I’m trying to focus more on how my experiences feel and less on how they appear.
Photos are valuable keepsakes. But what matters more to me are the stories behind them.
Featured image by Anthony Tran on Unsplash