I was a kid in the 1990’s, and that feels like a lifetime ago. When I was growing up, games were played on a game board, my family’s house phone was how I talked to my friends, and one hour of homework was the only thing that stood in the way of my sister and I running around the yard until time for dinner. That is to say, I might not have done my best work during that hour.
That is also to say, times have changed, and that isn’t news to anyone. The biggest difference in then and now is the physicality of communicating, and the “old school” practices of friendship that have found their new home on the screen. I’m not putting technology on blast and I’m thankful for the convenience of socializing with a group of friends while at home, with no pants on, in front of my computer. The fact is, in keeping up with technology and its advancements, we’ve adopted a new normal.
Now, to bring us back to 2020, we’re being metaphorically smacked in the face by that normal. The circumstances of quarantine and a worldwide pandemic has forced us further into those virtual connections with friends, family and, really, everyone. Except this time, we don’t have a choice. It’s like the world is saying “how do you like it now?”
In 2017, when I published my first book and moved from a traditional office to my home office, my biggest concern was the lack of social interaction. I’m an extremely social person and, aside from my dog, working from home means that I miss out on the fluent exchanges with people throughout the workday. As the transition to my home and the isolation of it became a reality, I made a choice to take myself out for lunch, walk around the city, or take my dog to a park when I start to get stir-crazy. Now, more than 3 years into it, I’m more social during my pre-quarantine work from home days than I ever was when I when I worked in an office.
My reason of sharing that is to say, at least for me, isolation and alone-time is great, but I need a social escape. I think that’s the case for most people – unless you’re the kind of introvert who can live alone on an island and thrive. To those people, a congratulations are in order. We are living your fantasy.
I am not one of those people, though, and I am feeling every day of this pandemic. Now that the restaurants are closed and the park is over-crowded with people who might have the virus, I’ve lost my opportunities to get out and socialize. Sure, I can Facetime with my family and call my grandmother to wish her a happy birthday, but it takes a concerted effort to engage with anyone. I realize that I took for granted the ease of interaction with people, and the luxury of going somewhere and being surrounded by strangers.
A lot about our lives will go back to “normal” once this pandemic has run its course, but there’s a list of things that, I think, will be forever changed. Personally, I want to be changed in a way that I’ll no longer take advantage being in the world without worrying about my health and susceptibility. I’m looking forward to rolling into a crowd of strangers and not having to sanitize my hands with every contact, but mostly I’m looking forward to having my smile seen by people, instead of a face mask covering it up.
Let’s make it a goal to remember this time of social isolation and use it as a reminder to be nicer to each other. We’ll hopefully come out of this a little more aware and a little more wary of covering our mouths when we sneeze, but I hope we’ll also remember what it felt like to not be able to see each other. My hope is it’ll lead to us loving and appreciating each other more. We’re all in this together, so let’s take care of each other.
Kristin Beale is a native of Richmond, Virginia. She is the author of a book, Greater Things, and a comic book, Date Me. Check them out and read an excerpt at https://kristinbeale.com/. Her comics can be found on Instagram @Greater.Things.Comics.
For more resources on the coronavirus, visit the Reeve Foundation COVID-19 Information Center.