Initially submitted to the NYTimes in June 2020; the paper was calling for submissions from those living alone during the pandemic.
February 2020 was my first month of living alone, and I loved it. I enjoy my own company. I even initially welcomed quarantine because I had three weeks (the time-frame given by my employer) to stay home. I could solely focus on redecorating my Jersey City apartment of 8 years, to really make it mine now that it was only mine — and tackle countless other creative projects I had been slowly making progress on.
The best moments were accomplishing everything by myself: I didn't have anyone to help me carry furniture boxes, or help me assemble a new TV stand, or offer an opinion on where to hang artwork (or even if said pieces were level). I taught myself how to hook up all of my tech machines and organize a system so that each computer served a different function and was only connected to its particular devices. I stained things, I painted things; I was a plumber one day and an electrician the next. A house plant caretaker and a cook who had to prep and plan every meal for 90 days. And like others, I definitely suffered some injuries tackling new territory at home. As the days went on, I realized that I'm strong(er than I thought), can be creatively resourceful when it comes to problem solving, and am capable of getting through house catastrophes by myself — two power outages, an ant infestation issue, and two days without running water, then dirty water. But life, living, simply being alive without any greater purpose than to keep myself alive, became a mental challenge. Even though I have always loved my independence, it is not quite the same as self-dependence. In the former you are free to be about in the world; in the latter, there are no other people to be about in your world. Why bother with anything in the world of one? Do I even exist?
People need other people — not for the physical help or the problem-solving help necessarily — we are meant to be social. While maybe I was learning valuable skills, I was learning nothing from others. The world was void of newness. Back in "real life," I was always observing. Now there was no one, no object, no thing, no machine, no art, no “other” to observe, nothing new to experience outside of my walls. My achievements could not be shown or shared with friends in person, where inevitably lots of laughter would ensue. I was alone: my best friend, my cheer-leader and my shoulder to cry on. And, beyond simply sharing experiences, humans are meant to be affectionate. I had no one to hug. Without a pet (they are not allowed in my building), I felt at such a loss with no one to cuddle. A home just did not feel like a home without other life in it. A friend had set up a weekly zoom happy hour with our girlfriends group, and I always felt lifted after sharing laughs with everyone over our individual frustrations. I decided to create a weekly google meet/zoom/whatsapp meetup schedule, with designated times for different groups of friends and family. Seeing the faces of those I love and recognize, hearing them laugh or even go on a rant, seeing my little nieces run around and vie for attention, listening to my relatives tell me stories I may have not heard if we weren't in this situation — these virtual hang-outs were so essential to my livelihood. But it was a strange, sad time. A time where the apex chart of the virus matched the "new normal" learning curve we all faced early March. While I realized I am indeed happy having my own space and quite capable of doing everything by myself inside of it, I felt the cold, deep pain of a life in isolated exile. I was alone, trapped in my Castle on a Cloud (the quarantine name I’d dubbed my apartment). There is nothing quite like the freedom of being out and about in the world, interacting with other people; nothing quite like the power of human touch and its healing ability. There is nothing like life. I'm looking forward to seeing people I know, in real life, again, outside of these walls that have contained me. I'm going to hug everyone like mad for uncomfortably long periods of time, because We made it through.