These are trying times, on both a global scale and on an individual one. For an intellectual obsessed with the existential, my brain has been in overdrive, attempting to process whatever it can to spit out as “meaning”.
One thing that I keep coming back to is how different the experience of self-isolation is depending on your living situation. Indeed, it would seem that the experiences aren’t just a little different; they are on total opposite ends of the spectrum.
As the weeks progress, images of empty supermarket shelves have given way to quaint pictures of temporarily home-schooled kids, couples reconnecting, and families dusting off old board games to revive long-lost traditions and competitions.
The voice notes on my phone and the Facebook posts on my feed have heralded the virus as a new and binding force for families, secondary to its role as a harbinger of illness and death. There is an embrace of the fundamental, a back-to-basics reset, a celebration of the nuclear family.
But in doing so, the narrative is leaving out the opposite scenario. By focusing on the silver-lining experiences of those who are rediscovering their spouses, their children, and their ovens, cooking with or for other members of their family, we are isolating (pun intended) a big portion of our societies: people who live alone. People like me.
In these cases, it would seem that the message is as follows: If you don’t live together, you cannot be together during this time; that’s reserved for “actual” family. Actual, legally and biologically bound people (Yes, roommates included here). So we have come to rely on FaceTime grids, video chats uniting chosen and modern families who, in this new reality, have been forced apart from each other.
In this disorientation, this newfound aloneness, which does not necessarily equate to loneliness, I did what others like me were doing. I created new group chats. I checked in on old friends. I picked up the phone for a chat. I forced video calls upon people who might not have otherwise known their phone had the functionality.
But no matter what I do, this activity of bonding, of connecting, remains the exception in my day – a highlight instead of the norm. Regardless of the new spaces that I work hard to cultivate and maintain, my status quo continues to be a state of aloneness, not one of togetherness.
What has your experience been?