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The Cycle of Isolation: Having Friends Without Being a Friend

This semester is beating the absolute shit out of us. All of us. We are all living through trauma right now, regardless of how aware of it we are. But there’s still this pressure to pretend like I am okay, and that really confuses me. Why is it that during a time where literally everyone is struggling, there would be more of an acceptance to not be okay, even a sense of connection in the shared experience. We spent months at home missing our friends and living here on campus,  it’s not so far-fetched to think everyone would want to (safely) be around people right now. But that has not been my experience so far.

Sure, there was the initial excitement at move-in time. We were all happy to see each other again and not be at home. But after the adrenaline rush passed, it seemed as if everyone was looking for reasons to be alone. Like we all forgot how to be social and now we felt guilty for trying. I’m not quite sure what to make of this guilt. Part of me thinks it’s justified because we should all be aware of how our actions impact the safety of everyone else. But the other slightly larger part of me thinks there’s a necessity in social interaction. We’re not meant to be alone and staring at a screen all day, it’s important to find safe ways to be together. While I was home, I just assumed everyone would share my craving for human connection, so I was quite surprised to find that was not the case.

Before I get any further, I want to preface that I understand. I do. It takes twice as much energy to do anything these days, but after spending months alone at home, spending time with other people was incredibly draining. But that didn’t bother me. I would so much rather be tired all the time than lonely. Of course, I can only speak for myself and everyone functions differently, but I think the isolation that I’ve experienced this semester has been detrimental to my mental health, and I’ve felt very alone in that. It seems as if everyone either wants to be alone or have friends around them, but they don’t have the energy to actually be a friend to others. 

This cycle is toxic, and I think it’s time to talk about it. I’m not quite sure how to break it. The more people are alone, the more we have time to overthink and overprocess our lives, and that can lead to some serious projection. I’ve experienced this first hand. I’ve lost friends over things that could have easily been avoided if only there was a healthy line of communication, and maybe that was already a problem in our relationships, but the pandemic has not helped the situation. It makes me so angry, and a part of me hates that. This is not the time for petty bullshit. 

Someone could get sick and die tomorrow, let’s not forget how lucky we’ve been. Just because we’re young doesn’t mean we’re invincible. It may be draining, but it’s more important now than ever before to check in on the people you care about. We are all scared. We are all going through this together. And we are definitely all struggling. We have to help each other out, because it is okay to struggle together. Some of my most healing moments this semester have been sitting in my housemates’ beds crying together because I felt safe and less alone being sad with them. 

I know this is probably the hardest time in all of our lives, it definitely is for me. But it’s time to push through. This campus needs a lot of tough love right now, so take this as your sign to text someone you haven’t talked to in a while, or tell a friend how you’ve been feeling, especially if you think they can better support you right now. I can’t stress this enough, communicate your needs. Your friends are not mind readers, if you need something to change, have a discussion with them. Not a call out, a discussion. There is a time and place for call out culture, but I think right now we all need to be cut a break. Unless your friend is racist or homophobic, or any other type of -ism or -phobic, call that shit out. Before you decide if this person is someone you want out of your life, think about how much you’re struggling right now, and know that they probably are feeling the same way. If something is fixable, give them the chance to work on it before you ice them out.  Effective communication is key here.

I don’t know a lot right now, but I do know that cutting people off and isolating yourself is not beneficial to anyone. Yes, it is very important to learn how to healthily be alone, but in order to do that we have to know we are not truly alone in the world. I wish I had all the answers, trust me, I’ve been wracking my brain for months trying to figure this shit out. But all I have at the moment is uncertainty and more questions, and that’s okay for now, because that’s where I’m supposed to be. Where we’re supposed to be, together, as a community.

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