For the past two years, I’ve wondered what it means for one to truly be alone. There is, of course, the textbook, Merriam-Webster definition that we often associate with the word: “separation from others, exclusive of anything or anyone else, or considered without reference to any other.” However, I believe that the past two years have shed some new light on the idea and attributed an entirely new meaning. Since the beginning of the pandemic, we have been encouraged to maintain social distancing from each other to prevent the spread of disease. While this isn’t exactly a new concept (if you haven’t already, take a moment to look at social distancing promotions used during the 1918 Flu Pandemic), it’s an entirely new first-hand experience for those under the age of 103.
But whether you lived through the 1918 Flu Pandemic or COVID-19, there is no denying that it will always be difficult to distance yourself from loved ones for the health and overall wellbeing of others.There is one clear reason, among others, for why this is such a challenging thing for us to do: we, as human beings, need human contact to live. Isolating ourselves doesn’t feel natural because prolonged isolation is not natural or healthy for our human psyche and physical health. Think back to when it was first announced that the world was going on lockdown: how did you initially feel? Shared experiences like these can bring people together, but it is the feeling of being able to truly relate to another individual that gives you a sense of comfort. As we begin a new year full of its own unique events; it's important that we engage in open conversations about it with others so that we, in turn, don't feel as lonely.
So how can finding peace in being "alone" become your superpower? It all begins by challenging your perception of what being alone is. I grew up as an introverted only child far from my extended family members. My cousins were all nearly ten years older than me, and none grew up in a predominantly white community. I often felt alone in my circumstances and struggled to find ways to connect to the people around me. College was the turning point for me: I made the decision to move from Seattle to Los Angeles with no prior established connections or relationships and it was the best thing I could have ever done for myself at that age.
I found little ways to thrive in the moments I was alone. For example, I would spend my Saturday mornings at my neighbourhood farmer's market to grab some healthy fruits, veggies, and juices to get me through the following week. I took it as a rare opportunity to spend quality time with myself while surrounding myself with the the high energy buzz that the farmer's market provided. However, it should be noted that I did not attend the event for the first couple of weeks I lived in the apartment as I was scared of being judged for being alone. After finally forcing myself to attend in late September, a thought popped into my mind that completely shifted my perspective: What's so bad about being alone? Why are we so quick to equate loneliness to being alone?
For me, those lazy Saturdays spent at the farmer's market are represent my independence as a college student. I cared enough about my wellbeing to dedicate that time to learning about and purchasing the fresh foods that made up most of my diet. There will always be moments in your life that you find yourself wishing you could share with another, but acknowledge the moments that you feel content with having a moment or an experience that is yours and yours alone. Those are the memories that you return to as a way of reconnecting to yourself. Challenge yourself to make a point of romanticizing them!
Alone doesn't need to mean lonely. We were created to have happy and healthy relationships with the individuals in our lives. When you do find yourself alone (whether you define that as being single around Valentine's Day or spending a Friday night in) see it as an opportunity to reconnect with yourself. Trust in your glorious purpose: you were put on this Earth for a reason so don't undervalue spending time with just yourself! One of my favorite scriptures I tend to refer to when I'm feeling a little lonelier than usual is Matthew 28:20: "And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age." We are never truly alone, are we?