Staying connected during a pandemic
This pandemic, I’ve moved at least six times (I’ve stopped counting at this point). I’ve been uprooted for communities as quickly as I’ve integrated. I’ve lost friends, figuratively and literally. I’ve watched friends pack up and move home overnight.
During this pandemic, my social networks and relationships have been continuously challenged and redefined, and I’m sure that’s not a unique story. How do we keep in touch with the people we love during a lockdown? How do we cope when we literally cannot cross socially-constructed borders to see our family? How do we start a new job and integrate into a new workplace culture exclusively through Zoom meetings? How do we find new roommates that now have to be Covid-comfort-compatible? How do we find love and go on dates when indoor seating is no longer an option?
As we begin a new set of restrictions, I can’t help but think about the enormous challenges we’ve had to collectively reckon with these past years, and the frustration from moving back and forth between levels of restrictions.
How do we cultivate relationships in a society and a world where relationships are discouraged? How do we find our ways back to ourselves, to the land, to our neighbours, when relationships are deprioritized? I believe that many of the solutions to the deeply complex problems in our society today begin with relationships. In a time of immense social division and political strife, can we still recognize the inherent humanness of each other, and the reciprocal relationships that we hold as members of a collective human body? Maybe we need the healing power of relationships to rekindle the connections that we have lost.
There’s a saying that goes something like you are born alone and you will die alone. Although we live in a single consciousness, we are always surrounded and connected to so many people who we know and who we don’t know. We meet so many people and create impressions and feelings and impacts on others that we will never fully understand. Just look at the sheer number of hands that a consumer good must go through in order to get from one end of the production chain to you as only one example of how we are fundamentally interconnected to each other. But it’s hard to feel connected when capitalism inherently obscures and dehumanizes relationships to labour. It’s hard to feel connected in a society that asks people to value superficial pleasantries and lip service instead of following through with action and intention. It’s hard to feel like we belong to a community when every day our cities becomes more and more unaffordable and the cost of a pandemic outweighs a night out with friends.
How many people have I fallen out of touch with, simply by virtue of circumstance and diminished social capacity? How many one night stands, missed connections, strangers that could’ve been something more?
But there is also something about the incredibly creative and sustained efforts we’ve found to stay in touch this pandemic. I took up letter writing and sending physical cards to people. I had lunch with my friend between classes every Tuesday on campus. A group of my friends now go on a ritualistic Sunday brunch where one of my friend’s works at. I try to meet up with a close friend every week. I tried online dating for the first time. We made the effort to be with the people in our lives. We chose to actually attend that gathering because who knows how long until the next. We made that leap of faith and booked that flight, that ferry, that hotel, that bus ride, despite the risk. We put ourselves out there and decided to be vulnerable. We chose connection over isolation in the ways we could and in the capacity we had.
So how do we stay connected in a pandemic? By choosing to connect. I’m not giving up.