By: Dale Kim
By: Dale Kim
Imagine that we each live on a different planet. We each live on our planets alone. Our planets are separated by hundreds of lightyears, but we are able to communicate with each other using faster-than-light communication… but not much else. We only see each other using screens. (Although, in some cases, we aren’t alone on the planet—we also have fussy parents and annoying siblings on the planet with us. Whether that’s a good or bad thing, heaven knows.)
While this might sound like a far-fetched, extraterrestrial Christopher Nolan psychological thriller, in reality, well, it’s reality. For the past few months, we have been forced into isolated shelter by an omnipresent plague that spreads quicker than the word of mouth. Friends we saw daily were not only accessible through a small screen. Social interactions we once took for granted, the touches and hugs we received on the daily, became rare gemstones riddled by the ceaseless risks of human contact. The grandparents we routinely visited during the holidays were now at the greatest risk of mortality, and in some cases, they are forced to endure their final days in isolation, with no visitors allowed near the hospital beds which have been forced upon them.
As social creatures, we inherently reject loneliness. Even traditionally “introverted” personalities seek social interaction in some form or manner, such as through online interactions or close friendships rather than broad ones. Over the past year, as we’ve come to realize that our “two weeks off” from school or work were in fact a two-month furlough, which turned into a stressful nine months of financial difficulties and lost opportunities, we’ve come to terms that we might be lonely for a while longer. The worst part is—we have to endure all of this alone. But are we actually alone?
With the onset of mass social isolation, this is a good time to adopt a new perspective to loneliness — it’s okay to be lonely because we are lonely together. We are not lonely alone, nor are we together, but we are lonely together.
The concept of being “lonely together” is a hard one to grasp—it’s an oxymoron. If we’re alone, then we’re alone, and if we’re together then we’re together, right? There shouldn’t be any middle ground.
But that’s the beauty of being lonely together—we’re all in this together. And rather than focusing on loneliness in times of COVID-19, we should focus on togetherness. Sure, we might be lonely in the sense that our support systems might be hundred or even thousands of miles away from us, but that doesn’t mean that we are alone. There are others in your exact same situation, and sometimes, we can find gratification in it.
Loneliness should not be shameful; the majority of the world is alone. What we can do is to acknowledge this and reach out. Whether these check-ins may be through a simple text or a lengthy call, it could be someone’s light at the end of the tunnel. A few words of kindness not only can make others feel better but also improve your mood as well.
It’s also healthy to have some space for yourself—although an entire planet might be too much—and use this time to pursue personal goals. I remember back in March, when I’d wished for some more time to write or pursue other hobbies. When forced into isolation, these personal goals went down the drain; however, all it took was a change in perspective. Rather than suffering in despondent loneliness, I could have rebranded this period of time as time for myself to build upon these personal goals, and I would suggest the same for all of us.
Yes, we are lonely,but we are not alone. Rather than being individual entities on individual planets, perhaps a better analogy would be that we are all in a great big tunnel, trudging forward, fearful of the dark. But we can find solace in the fact that there are others in the tunnel with us—the entire world is in that tunnel with us—and there is a light at the end of the tunnel. And we’ll reach it together.