5 min read
by Michelle Alexander | July 01, 2021
The pandemic gave me a perspective that I was previously unable to tap into. I used to distract myself with morning commutes, happy hours, date nights, friends, and vacations. And then swiftly, there was an indefinite pause that forced me to view the nuances of sustaining relationships and the effects that were going to follow a year-long (and counting) social hiatus.
On March 12, 2020, my boyfriend showed up with his suitcase to my apartment — we were all packed up to go to Miami! Wouldn’t it have been nice to know that a planned weekend vacation together would turn into a year-long quarantine? From morning until night, workweek and weekend, we pretty much spent every second together. Overall, I’m very grateful to have somebody by my side throughout this dystopian year — but without a doubt, I’ve lost a lot of my individualism, and I can’t be the only one who feels this way. Hobbies that were once mine, are now ours. Making alone time for myself had to be an exerted effort, especially in a tiny NYC apartment. I vowed to never be codependent on a romantic partner, but the pandemic made it really clear to me that it wasn’t really my choice anymore.
In terms of friendship, things shifted rather quickly. We’ve lived entire lifetimes in between seeing each other. One of the hardest pills to swallow? Those friendships that fell by the wayside were most likely based on proximity, such as being able to meet at a bar or even work in the same space. So with the lack of friendship and the increase in sleeping, breathing, eating with my SO by my side, the ultimate fear creeps in: I’m not really sure what life looks like as an individual anymore. Who am I? What do I enjoy? How do I act in social situations? Although it has been easy to shrug them off in the past, these thoughts are scary AF when the return to real life is in sight.
But that’s just one experience of millions. To experience an event with every other human on Earth is pretty extraordinary. I asked people in my life to share their raw truths with me regarding their friendships/relationships looking back on a full pandemic year:
“My boyfriend and I have been long-distance for 3 years. He lived in London at the time and I lived in NYC. He was supposed to move here for his Master’s degree in August of 2020, but because of the travel ban (even for international students), he was unable to come until January 2021. I spent a lot of nights crying and oftentimes the loneliness felt crippling. I barely even got to see my parents and a lot of my friendships grew distant. It was hard to even do chores on my own. I’ll never take being around others for granted again. Once he moved here and we started spending every second together, I realized that just getting out of the house and trying to take some time apart is important so you can get out of your head for a while, come home, and really be present and be your best self with your partner.” -Angie
“Video games, as funny as it is, kept my friendships intact. Instead of meeting up, we’d just hop on Xbox and use that time to catch up, but because it was so easy to log on, we communicated way more than when we would see eachother one or two times a week.” -Steven
“A month before the quarantine, I had downloaded a dating app for the first time. I met someone cool, we were vibing, and then the pandemic lockdown began. The near-future of the relationship became ambiguous as we had NO idea the severity of COVID-19 or how long this lockdown was going to last. In some ways, I’m grateful for the lockdown, or else I may have fallen into old habits that have led me to be a serial dater in the past. It slowed things down for me and kept me present. With virtual dating, I was no longer distracted by limerence or physical chemistry. Getting to know people via text/facetime allowed me to build emotional intimacy with them, which would quickly let me know if we were compatible. The experience taught me a lot. I grew a lot. I got to know myself, my emotional needs and took a much-needed break from the physical distractions of life.” -Kierra
“Leading up to the pandemic, I was in a dead-end relationship with my ex-fiancé of 6 years. I worked in in-person sales, my team assignments switched around because of COVID, leading me to work with coworkers I never would have worked with before. Coincidentally, I met the love of my life because of this. I broke up with my ex and started working towards a relationship with someone who wanted the same things in life as me. Don’t get me wrong — the pandemic was absolutely tragic and I can’t believe we’ve endured this. But also had the pandemic never happened, my life would have never changed so drastically [for the better]. I didn’t even realize how unhappy I was until I had time to stop and think. It made me see that life is short and I deserve to have the things I want in life.” -Elizabeth
“A lot of my friendships took a backseat because I ended up moving back home, two hours away. People I used to be good friends with are more like acquaintances now. Texting just isn’t the same. However, my relationships with my family got a much needed refresh, and I realized that I may never have this type of quality time with my family ever again - so I cherished it.” -Kevin
Thank you to those willing to share their emotional experiences with me and although the above experiences highlight positive retrospectives, I’d also like to recognize that many people have endured extreme loss during this year. Wholeheartedly, we hold so much space for them in our thoughts and community. Hopefully, we all make the effort to take a pause and appreciate the present moment a little longer.
How did the quarantine affect your relationships or life? Who are you today versus who you were in February of 2020? Leave a comment below.
by Michelle Alexander