I was forced to spend my 27th birthday in solitude because of San Francisco’s public health order. No happy hours, no gyms, no gatherings. I was already going on three weeks of working from home. March 28th (my birthday) was rainy and overcast, as most San Fran weather is. But it felt gloomier because I hadn’t felt so lonely in such a long time.
I live alone in the Bay Area. And yes, I know that’s unheard of — almost everyone has a roommate to combat the high housing costs. But my single-living lifestyle quickly backfired on me when San Francisco announced its mandatory lockdown. I wouldn’t be allowed to physically interact with anyone for the unforeseeable future.
Suddenly, I wanted a roommate. I wanted someone who was physically there, even if they were just typing away on their laptop. Even if they didn’t know me, even if we were in one of those cordial ‘we-live-in-the-same-space-but-don’t-care-about-each-other’s-lives’ type of situation. I craved human contact. And I realized all my other co-workers had that: roommates, family, friends, a partner, a pet. At least they could combat loneliness.
I began to spiral, letting all my quarter-life crisis thoughts invade my mind: I should have a partner by now. I should have a huge network of friends to lean on. I should have a busy schedule where I have video chat dinners lined up for every day of the week. I should be good enough.
Tired of beating myself up, I decided to do what every life coach and YouTube influencer tells you to do: journal. Write out your thoughts as they come, reflect on yourself, and send some gratitude out into those empty streets.
My journal pages produced the following reflections on how to get through “coronantine” when you live alone:
Lean on your therapist. I look forward to every Thursday night, where I can spill my heart out about all the FOMO and anxiety that accumulated within me. Teletherapy has never been more useful now that we’re all quarantined. It feels great to have a non-biased third-party listen to my angst, and provide coping strategies I can put into practice the next day. If you’re looking for care, I’d recommend signing up for an online mental health counselor on sites like TalkSpace or Betterhelp.
Drive out of the city. If you have a car. If you don’t, then rely on your Hinge dates to drive you — that’s what I did. (The feelings were mutual, trust me.) The chilly air at Point Reyes and the smell of bark and bushes on Mount Tamalpais restored our souls. I repaid my drivers with homemade granola and snacks— I consider that a fair trade. We tried to stay six feet apart per protocol, too. (Tried.)
Learn which friends respect your time — and which ones don’t. It was easy for some people to drop plans last-minute — or even ‘forget.’ It was draining to chase after people with a text or call, but energizing when both of us were on the same page. Social distancing allowed me to see the friends who expected me to work on their time. Limit your contact with these types of people—even when COVID-19 is over.
But at the same time, be kind. Maybe the friends who canceled did so because they were sick. Or because they didn’t plan ahead and got caught up at Costco. Always assume best intentions. The coronavirus has caught everyone off guard. Most of us rarely buy things in bulk. We’d rather get takeout than meal prep, and some of us have never even used a can opener. Because I’m the type to jump to conclusions, I remind myself to be patient.
Remember that reaching out isn’t desperate. I want to kick myself for waiting a whole week before I asked friends to chat with me during dinnertime. Maybe it was pride, or the fear of looking like a total loser. But to my surprise, people were elated by the idea. Because we’re all thinking the same thing, but too scared to be the first one to put ourselves out there and confess, yes, we’re lonely, and yes, we need social interaction to stay sane. This is the time to lean on each other. Initiate. Ask. And call up those friends who are three hours ahead!
Spoiler alert: my birthday was actually really fun. I FaceTimed my college friends for brunch, called my parents, hosted an Instagram Live, and had a four-way video dinner with some Bay Area babes. I drank lager and indulged in a mug-sized strawberry shortcake. I may have been alone physically. But emotionally, I wasn’t.
Hope this advice helps.
A single and alone 27-something