I am the only child of the family. I never, ever have hated being the only child, not until the pandemic. It all started with the early days of quarantine where I had to stop seeing my friends earlier than it should have been. The next day I remember, I was going back home with my parents and living virtually in a bubble of Zoom meetings. Nobody is prepared for that.
Things were easy in the first months, apart from the exhaustion that I felt every time I awakened by the alarm blare.
Before starting the day, I put sunscreen on with blue light protection then turning my laptop on. And I hit the hay after doing my night routine; brushing my teeth, skincare, video call with my college buddies, and journaling.
Same old shit but a different day.
Everyone seemed to love their time spent with families at home. At least that’s what they said on Twitter. Sure, we now have the luxury of time, since we need no commute and have to be homebound due to the imposed regulations. To me, that’s just nonsense.
Most of the time, I live upstairs at my parents’ house. No interaction nor connection between me and my parents. We barely talked as I skipped the small talk and avoided my father rambling about the news. Meanwhile, my mother was busy concerning the WhatsApp messages about the virus. In conclusion, nobody I could share my thoughts with about stuff. Don’t mention that I haven’t tried to start the conversation, believe me, I did.
Let me give you the details.
As somebody who’s in her early 20s, I’m trying to be connected with the world through certain topics, such as mental health, gender inequality, racial discrimination, body positivity, and pop culture. Thanks to the internet and social media for making me attached to the world and changing my perspectives a lot. I’m trying to respect people as who they are, avoiding cracking a joke that may sound offensive, or speak up my mind if I find something ridiculous.
Those are antithetical to my parents whose ages are almost thrice mine.
So, what are you up to?
My life depends on the internet connection. I talk to my friends through instant messaging applications, research for my assignments on Google, entertain myself by watching loads of Netflix TV series, or too busy glorifying the singer of Watermelon Sugar.
I do think that I’m losing mindfulness for the past year because not being present is the closest thing to escape from reality where I’ve been imprisoned. Whenever I’m doing household chores, eating, taking a bath, or even listening to music, it is hard for me to be present. Sometimes, I found myself beaming at the thoughts that I have in mind. Scary, isn’t it?
Then, weeks ago when I was having dinner with my mother, I was giving full attention to half of an empty bowl in front of me. Diverting my gaze, my subconscious was hit by the silence that filled the room.
Hell, it’s an empty house.
My contentment vanished right after the realization. The ball game turns me into a silent person who contemplates her thoughts. I’m craving another humankind’s presence. Raise people’s laughter through my banter. Cursing in every sentence that I’m saying — bad habit but I’ll give it a toast when I have the chance. At that time, I was done eating then shifting upstairs to my room. My fingers made a clacking sound as I typed on the search engine to figure out how social distancing affected an only child.
I read an article on HuffPost — they referred to children, but who knows if that applies to young adults as well. They mentioned how only children missing being around their friends, yet can get through it. Meanwhile, I don’t think I am capable of doing that. We’re all dealing with isolation and disconnection from our pre-pandemic daily routine. Nonetheless, I believe only children hit it differently than our friends who spend the days with their siblings, even if it is irritating to acknowledge their presence.
As a journalism student back then, I was that type of person who tended to move from a place to another to do some activities. I had interactions with people most of the time, from 7 AM to 9 PM almost every day; attending classes in the morning until afternoon, doing my responsibilities as a reporter on a campus press, covering issues for the final projects, hanging out with friends, and sneaking out to music festivals on Friday nights.
Now can you imagine how emptiness starts kicking in? Somebody who was surrounded by packs of people round the clock, now living a ‘privileged life’ to stay in her sanctuary. Only God knows how long this will last. Late at night, sometimes I found myself bawling my eyes out behind closed doors — I also hyperventilate because this feeling couldn’t be taken in anymore. While caressing my shoulders and arms to calm down, I asked Google Assistant to play some music from my favorite band. Did that help? Of course not. It’s impossible to pull myself together right after the song started. The lyrics sounded more related than ever. So, how were you holding on? Have you ever felt emotionally tied up to some stuff that doesn’t physically exist in front of you? But in the fullness of time, they are the one who soothes and understands you. And that’s how I was.
Why didn’t you reach out to somebody?
First, bothering anyone in the middle of the night to accompany somebody who mentally unstable is the last thing I’d love to do. Second, it is hard and tiring to explain your state. Third, you probably don’t know what’s on their shoes at the moment.
Glutted by the feeling, I discovered how much I needed affection. Otherwise, I’m just a living corpse who’s trying to breathe while relying on positive quotes that look Tumblr-ish.
The past year is not entirely awful, the sun does shine at its times and there is a lot of recognition as well. I chewed over what kind of family that I ought to build; never shut out our feelings, obligated to understand that as human-being we all need some time to be alone, and allowing my children to have fun with their buddies without sneaking out behind their parents.
And talking over the phone for hours was underrated, the second you realize that’s the closest thing to hold your loved ones closer. Because what I knew is after hitting the red button on the screen, loneliness is engulfing in a tight hug. Until this very moment you read this, I haven’t got the faintest idea that there will be open arms waiting on the other side when this unprecedented time finally ends. The long talk doesn’t need to involve emotions. Sometimes all you need is just goofing around through the blue screen, reminiscing the old days where it wasn’t necessary to panic if we forget to put on a mask.
We need people to make us feel secure, wanted, and compatible to live the life we are going through. But I think we can’t get that from just anyone. Perhaps friends who are miles away or somebody you haven’t physically met.
As a single infant who evolves as an adult, I’m far from what they indicated as ‘only child syndrome’. I gain friends easily, depending on myself, selfless, well adjusted, and considered loneliness is trifling. So, it is hard to admit that lately, I’m joining the lonely club. Without missing a single night, I wish I could opt for the people whom I wanted to spend the quarantine.