What Living Alone, Not Hugging Anyone for 53 Days and A LOT of Self Reflection Looks Like

I have talked about my childhood dreams of living alone before on this blog. It has been a thing for as long as I can remember. It wasn’t because I hated my parents or my upbringing, quite the opposite actually. I think it was because I would prove I was capable, smart and was worthy of true respect (which for some annoying reason does not automatically come once your new house keys are placed into your adult hands). Again my parents loved and respected me but I clearly have some self-confidence issues to work through. 

So in all of my years of fantasizing, you know what wasn’t a part of my magical “Kate Hudson in How To Lose a Guy In 10 Days Fantasy”?? A global pandemic quarantine. Short-sighted of me? I guess so. But a global pandemic came nonetheless and I was all of a sudden faced with the reality that I was alone and pretty in shock. Of course, my endless gratitude for video chats with friends and family was noted daily in my head but now I was being put to the task of inevitable self-evaluation. I also felt a little extra isolated due to the fact that while two of my close friends were in the same “alone” situation, most everyone else I knew wasn’t. I’m 32, so most of the people in my life in my age group are either in a pretty serious relationship, married with kids, or living with roommates (the ones with roommates are living in expensive cities like New York so roommates are basically required if you are single). However, one wonderful EHDer was also going through this in the same way I was (alone) and that beauty was Caitlin.

Normally living alone is almost always wonderful. We are HUGE fans. But then shelter in place was ordered and naturally, that perspective shifted a bit.

Please know that I know this weird time has likely made everyone look at what the eff they are doing with their lives. Or what they have become. Or how they deal with things, whether that’s by yourself in a small studio or with a big family in a big house. But Emily and the rest of the team were understandably curious what our experience has been like so that’s why we are here, to get maybe too honest about the lies we didn’t know we were telling ourselves (mainly me), what we have generally learned (or haven’t) and what is even relevant due to the fact that THIS TIME ISN’T NORMAL LIFE. Please join us because my god could we use the company. 

I’ll start.

I am not a stranger to being by myself. Within a two year period, starting about 5 years ago, I had moved to three different cities and while I had some friends within driving distance I spent a lot of time by myself. So I wasn’t worried that I was going to go into a deep depression for a lack of face to face interaction. Don’t get me wrong, quality time is my #1 love language so spending time with friends is truly one of my most valued things in the world. But I am real good at following the rules and knowing this wasn’t going to be “forever” I felt pretty ok.

The moment I started to spin out was when I realized I had zero supplies. I am telling you aside from (thankfully) having a safe place to stay and luckily getting my hair done the day before the world freaked out (ha!), maybe no one was less prepared to shelter in place than me. Then I had a realization…

I’m not a minimalist but instead a privileged 32-year old that can get mostly whatever she needs with a click of a button.

This realization hit me like a ton of bricks when in the initial frenzy of the quarantine I quickly realized that I was anything but equipped to staying inside for an undetermined amount of time. No food, little toilet paper, no crafts, and one readable book. This felt like a glass shattering moment. Here I was walking around, silently congratulating myself with this idea that I didn’t require tons of things to feel happy and that I wasn’t going to end up like my hoarding grandmother. I thought it was learned from my “life experience” since I had moved a handful of times (including internationally) which made my ability to carry a heavy loot nearly impossible. So anything that wasn’t precious to me, went. But guess who was my secret beautiful storage unit…the consumer marketplace. I didn’t need to hold onto things that didn’t “spark joy” because I could easily find something else that would. After talking over this idea with Caitlin she sent me this tweet that perfectly summed up this idea:

“Minimalism only works when capitalism/consumerism is in full swing. I miss that bag of fabric that would have made AMAZING masks.” – Anna Bulbrook

Now I am not saying that I am about to become a packrat (visually clutter makes me noticeable nuts) but I am absolutely going to take a much closer look at my need to constantly get rid of things “I don’t currently need.” I will no longer pat myself on the back for ultimately falling for a false sense of security that our system has led us to trust. How’s that for week one of being alone? Let’s keep going.

My affinity for comedy is deeper than just wanting to be in a good mood.

I am aware that I tend to stay away from deeply sad, heavy entertainment (not always, but most of the time). Not to pull the “dead mom card” but I think it definitely started when she was sick which is now 11 years ago. I don’t think of myself as someone who “can’t handle” sad movies, books, tv shows but when I’m recommended “a great movie” but I know it’s heartbreaking, I decide to protect my usually tender heart and turn on something lighter. I don’t avoid sad feelings, but when I am 100% in charge of my activities (which is a lot when you live alone) I take them in the smallest of doses, like a song or a short article. I don’t think I am a HSP which was a new thing I learned about last year, but I am truly coming to terms that there is likely a deep vat of sadness in me that I am not all that willing to tap into on the regular, afraid it might take me off course of my celebrated glass half full optimism. I promise I’m not boiling water, ready to explode the top off of the pot but I do think that I am avoiding (you’ll see it’s a BAD pattern) dealing with the darkness. And don’t get me wrong I love darkness and emotional depth. I think it’s a beautiful part of life which makes me even more irritated that I am clearly ignoring my own.

I’m avoidant, not busy.

This was THE thing I was going to really work on this year in my personal life. Despite my complete and utter exhaustion with my inability to deal with “hard things” head-on when I am the one not 100% in the right or that my opinion might hurt someone I love, I haven’t been able to stop. But guess what is a grrrreat excuse to putting those hard things off…life. However “life” or what used it to be, is no longer an excuse (it never was) or an obstacle. Now I get to sit in my self-built misery, paralyzed to move with LITERALLY zero excuses. I don’t even have a cute animal to blame it on. Nope, it’s just me.

Ok sure, we are in an unprecedented situation for our time and if there’s ever a time to give yourself a break, it’s now. But this is not new so what am I going to do? I honestly don’t know. I will say I’m working on it, and I really hope I do. If I find a magical hack or likely a good therapist, I’ll let you know.

Now for my last but definitely not the final lesson of this quarantine. Will they ever stop?

I didn’t fully appreciate my life.

Gross. But in a selfish confidence of good karmic rewards, I have realized a secret part of me felt that the gifts, moments, friends I had were earned which subsequently meant I was taking them for granted. Sure, I work hard to show the people I love that I love them but in no way am I automatically allotted reciprocation for good deeds. Again my privilege was glaringly apparent and if I take one thing from all of this mess is that I am owed nothing and I will do my best to appreciate every bit of life and the people in it.

Caitlin, you’re up.

HELLO, PALS. Every day, I sign in and I read your comments — the ones about your kids making a mess, about your partner helping you tackle a project (or not), about rearranging your living room with your roommates, about what to watch when you’re quarantined with your parents or in-laws — and I, an adult person who has officially been totally alone for 53 days, feel like I MISSED THE FREAKIN’ BOAT.

Y’all, it’s like NOAH’S ARK out there. (Yes, I did attend a private Catholic school, and yes, this is about as much as I remember from theology class…sorry, mom.) ANYWAY — everyone has coupled up (or…throupled up? Quadupled up? — you get it, PEOPLE ARE TOGETHER) and I’m on my raft for one. It’s my own 2020 take on Rose at the end of Titantic — there’s no room for Jack Dawson in this little 1 bedroom apartment. 

Most days, quarantining solo is pretty normal. I bet we’ve done a bunch of the same things — I’ve cut my own bangs. I’ve abandoned a craft project. I’ve texted an ex. I’ve texted the guy dated right before this — the one who never actually became a real ex — a whole lot. I’ve googled “is this COVID or allergies???” too many times. I’ve binged all of Tiger King. (I have not made banana bread or a sourdough starter, which is impressive. Also, can you believe that Tiger King came out AT THE END OF MARCH? In the same month that all of the Democratic primary contenders dropped out? It feels like it has been years.)

But here are the big differences: I had my last hug on March 9, which makes me really sad, and being alone for this long is starting to amplify some of my worst qualities. 

On Losing Contact

Honestly, this just sucks, and it makes me sad to write about. Today marks 8 weeks since I even grazed another person. Touch is so polarizing now: on one end of the spectrum is me, rewatching a boomerang of me hugging a friend and thinking about how I am going to glom onto the first person I see once it’s safe; on the other end of the spectrum is a friend of mine with a four kids under 7, hoping for ONE MOMENT without a child attached to their person. There’s no winning here for anyone — I think that universally, we’re all either alone or a little overstimulated. At least we’re all uncomfortable, though, which I guess helps? 

On Amplifying My Bad Qualities

This is kinda the big one for me, so let’s start with an anecdote: almost EVERY DAY, I make a box of macaroni and cheese. Instead of plating it (already a stretch, seeing as my only plates are Tupperware, because my design paralysis also extends to both table and flatware), I grab a trivet and eat it straight out of the pot at my desk in heaping spoonfuls. It honestly feels kind of primal and I think I may be scratching some itch in the weird hunter-gatherer part of my brain. I almost always finish the whole thing in under 6 minutes. 

And guys, there are so many Instagram stories and posts telling me that this kind of behavior is okay. They say things like “surviving is more important than thriving” and “so much love to everyone who’s trying” and “self care is doing whatever you need to get through this”….but I don’t think anyone was referring to completely devolving into a Neanderthal-like version of themselves. I am legitimately just leaning into being gross for grossness’ sake. 

Because I mean, I’m fine. I’m so lucky to be employed in a job I love (or employed in any job, period), in an apartment that makes me happy, with friends who care about me enough to check-in constantly. There’s no universe where I can say, “oh, I’m avoiding showering because it’s self-care.” I’m avoiding showering because I’m kind of lazy and I’m just capitalizing on my lack of social interaction for as long as I can. I always thought that with enough free time, I’d finally try and learn how to cook. Now, with LITERALLY all of the free time in the world, I am just too lazy to try. (My love affair with boxed mac and cheese continues.)

But it’s not just food, or bathing, or the general other horrifying habits I’ve developed — I’m starting to get EXTRA avoidant, with is kind of the opposite of what you’d expect. Outside of our daily EHD video meetings, I’ve refused (or slept through, oops) every Zoom or Houseparty invitation I’ve gotten since March 22nd. THAT’S TWO DAYS AFTER THE TIGER KING PREMIERE, you guys. FOREVER AGO. I’ve always been a little bit of a ghost-er (read: I am an enormous ghost — I have 1,820 unread text messages), but quarantine is just amplifying it. 

I’m alone, so you’d think I should want to talk to people — but I just don’t. There’s nothing I can talk about. Here are my personal major life updates over the past 2 months: I’ve spent 7 straight days watching a bruise on my leg go from dark purple to yellow. I’ve updated a notebook detailing new growth on my Pothos plants every day. It hit 91 degrees in my apartment. I’m thinking about buying a comforter that Emily recommended. I got a sunburn while sitting on my balcony. I start checking our EHD analytics at 5 AM because I have nothing else to do. I’m buying some jasmine because y’all recommended it to me. THAT’S IT.

Does anyone actually want to talk about these things? Even typing them was boring. (Are you still reading? Please don’t leave, I’ll try to be more interesting!!!) Everything I do feels more like a tweet — one and done — and less like something worthy of actual conversation, so I’m just avoiding chatting. (To that point, my Twitter has never been more active. I’m filled with hot takes like “every member of Joy Division looks like they could have been a math teacher,” or “how could Zooey Deschanel be attracted to both Ben Gibbard AND a Property Brother?”) 

But for the Most Part, It’s Okay

There are so many things that I really do miss. I miss distracting my coworkers with constant side conversations. I miss my daily lunchtime tacos and the weird friendships I’d forged with all the employees at our local taco stand. I miss doing the thing where you make intense eye contact with a person after someone else in the room says something weird. None of these are easily replicated or replaced when you’re living solo, and it stinks. It also stinks that my skin has never been clearer and THERE’S NOBODY HERE TO SEE IT. (And you just KNOW that as soon as this is lifted, I’m going to break out. THAT IS THE WAY OF THE UNIVERSE.) 

But for real — the idea of having to do this with another person seems terrifying to me. I don’t know how you all are doing this. I’m sure it’s my only child syndrome talking, but I can’t imagine two months in the same space as another person with no breaks. I need my alone time, and while this may be a little too much alone time (like, guys, last night I cried because I was moved by this Twitter thread about a girl writing letters with USPS employees), I’m just embracing it for now. ANYWAY, I’M FINE, HOW ARE YOU DOING? I want to chat in the comments. 

Ok, Jess again. Lastly, when this post was originally scheduled and mostly written when I was home alone for the long haul. But after 5 weeks and 2 days had passed and my dad asked me if I wanted to stay with him for a bit. After a lot of thought, dreams of some outdoor space/great cooking and a negative COVID test result (my dad, while a total badass, is 70, asthmatic and there was no chance I would not know to the absolute best of my ability that I was safe to be around him) I drove up North with zero bathroom breaks. A personal victory. Then with 37 days of not so much as a handshake, I hugged my dad and cried. The truly biggest lesson from all this is that all we have is each other and I know I am not alone in that. That lesson is evident regardless of your living situation.

Also, Caitlin get ready for the HUG OF YOUR LIFE when I see your super clear face<3

I think we are due for a little quarantine check-in as Caitlin just said. How are you doing? Better? Worse? The same? Have you had any good or bad epiphanies? We are here for you. xx

Love you, mean it.

Opening Photo Credit: Photo by Sara Ligorria-Tramo | From: Makeover Takeover: Jess’ Long Awaited (Small Space) Living Room Reveal

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