Too Familiar

by Rachel Ghamela Johnson

Just before the virus, I had decided to make some changes.  My social contacts were limited, I knew I needed to expand my circle, to find ways of interacting with more people.  I had been searching for work in the travel industry, I had just gotten my first gig scheduled for May.  I made a list of my various interests and started to make inquiries on things to become involved in so that I could have more activity, more interaction, more connection.  And then, suddenly, before I could bring any of these things to fruition, everything came to a halt.  And my small, narrow, limited world became even smaller.  

I used to be an extreme introvert.  I could never get enough time by myself, I craved alone time.  The only way I could process things was to be alone, and quiet.  Therefore, it was a strange transition over the winter, when I realized that now, at this time in my life, I actually have too much alone time.  It took me a while to understand the struggle I was having – “too much alone time” was something that was not part of my vocabulary, it was a concept of which I had no understanding.  But life changes, people around us change, and we ourselves change.  So I finally came to grips with this new aspect of my life – I need to be around people.  I finally understood it, and decided to take action . . . only to be denied the ability to take any action at all.  I had planned to do new things.  Now I am doing nothing at all.

When it came to confinement, it seemed everyone was struggling with how to take normal social interactions and make them online social interactions.  I think I could have managed that transition.  But I did not have proper social interactions before.  How does one initiate new social interactions online?  It can be a struggle to take an in-person meeting and have it on video instead, but at least you already have the group to gather.  How does one manufacture a group, new social connections when there is only online?  In person, in a new social situation, I can enter a group, begin by existing on the edge, have some surface interactions, meet a few people, establish a method for future interaction (future attendance).  I know how to do this, especially if there is a purpose or theme to the group or activity.  How does one do this when you cannot go physically be on the edge of a group?  How does one even go about finding a new group or activity virtually?  I have never been a big user of social media – basic facebook posts for my small list of friends.  I don’t even know where to look – I am not young and plugged in to these things.

This confinement in my house became a total social confinement.  I had just realized I needed to become more social, now I cannot take any action to solve my problem!  My hands are tied.  The loneliness is palpable.  Just me and the walls of my house and my two cats.  Silent.  Alone.  Spending time on facebook only makes it worse . . . everyone is posting extra, of course, because they have the time.  And they are posting pictures of their virtual get togethers with their friends, or newly discovered family moments, game night, sharing frustrating kid/spouse stories, etc.  What I wouldn’t give for a frustrating family right now!  At least there would be someone to interact with, some distraction from the silence of being. (And again I marvel that I am craving interaction instead of craving alone time, as I have my entire life!)   I long for something new, an activity, an adventure, something unfamiliar.  I am confined to things that are all too familiar, and I long for distraction of some kind.  

In good news . . . The entire world has time on its hands and facebook does a funny thing by suggesting “friends”.  I have accepted some new “friends” and I now have several acquaintances scattered across northern African countries.  They like to chat over text in the evenings.  It is interesting and distracting to have conversations with them.  On rare nights I might even have 2 or 3 conversations going at the same time, so that is kind of like a new group, right? 

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