I thought I knew myself, my needs, and my desires. I thought I understood people and was a good judge of character. I thought that capitalism – for all its pitfalls – was still the best of the worst systems for running the world.
I was wrong.
If you had told me at the start of 2020 that I can stay in my room for months binge-reading books I did not have the time to read and binge-watch shows I should not have the time to watch, along with attending my classes online; I would have happily accepted the offer.
As someone who does not like the banalities of socialization, I had always found solitude to be a pleasant, rewarding experience. But the last few weeks have completely changed my perception. I realize how naive I had been in taking social interactions in person for granted. Even for someone like me, who has never been the outgoing sort, there is – I have come to learn – no substitute for physical human presence. I have begun to miss the exchange of pleasantries with classmates, holding the door for a fellow customer at a cafe, watching a bunch of toddlers fiddling with their school bags, and other simple, mundane realities of the pre-COVID-19 world, which now feel so much more than internalized inanities.
Having so much time to myself has naturally led me down the delicate road of introspection. The consequence has been startling, as I have started to see the flaws in the choices and decisions I used to pride myself on. Why did a bustling friendship suddenly come to a screeching halt? Why could I never accept a particular failure in school? Why did I mistake a toxic dynamic for an indispensable relationship? With the perspective gained from being boxed in a room, I have finally found closure, if not outright answers, to these questions.
Set free from the humdrum business of reaching a particular place at a particular time for a particular action, I have had the freedom to delve into the finer recesses of my emotional self, discovering how I mistook obsession for passion, ego for resilience, and compulsion for commitment.
Last week I was taken by surprise to receive a notification on WhatsApp. It was a message from a friend I had not spoken to for four years. He had texted to check on my condition at this critical juncture and volunteered to help me with contacts of his relatives in England (where I am studying right now for my postgraduate degree) should I happen to require assistance.
I had always been under the assumption that this particular friend had never quite been a friend, more like a circumstantial acquaintance, someone who only spoke to me because we went to the same school for a couple of years. And yet, his sudden message filled me with joy and brought a smile to my face. I realized I might have been mistaken in my analysis of him. Perhaps he never became a good friend because I never let him, perhaps my reluctance to interact with him shaped my impression of him more than anything he said or did. We exchanged a few texts, and remarkably, the tension we used to feel in each other’s proximity had disappeared, melting away into the virtual wilderness, as we connected for the first time as people, despite being thousands of miles apart.