I LEARNED HOW TO STOP SELF-ISOLATING DURING THE PANDEMIC

I was keeping people at a distance well before the pandemic started and all it was doing was making me depressed.

Since I have your attention, here is a LinkTree of Black Lives Matter information, places to donate and resources, here is a link where Canadians can take action toward defunding the police in their city and here is a list of petitions you can sign to demand Justice for Breonna Taylor.


I lived by myself in a bachelor apartment for almost three years. For two of those years, I was single. For a year an a half of those years, I worked from home. At the time, when I would stay home without any intentions of seeing anyone I called it relaxing alone time or a weekend to myself, but then the pandemic gave it a name: self-isolation.

Here was a typical weekend in my life when I lived alone:

FRIDAY NIGHTArrive home from work to an empty apartment. Take off bra. Cook dinner and eat it in front of the glow of my computer. Abandon my intentions of going to bed early because I’m talking to someone half interesting on a dating app. Make my horizontal arrangement look cute for the gram and upload a story. Consider meditating and deflect that idea immediately because it involves silence. Instead end up eating popcorn straight out of the bag then masturbating to put myself into a coma.

SATURDAY MORNING – Wake up and regret not sleeping with my retainer in. Go to a workout class (wow! some social interaction?) and grab brunch with some friends after. Crawl into bed will a full belly as soon as I get home and watch Netflix or nap. Consider stretching or showering.

SATURDAY NIGHT – Wake up from two hour accidental nap OR rouse myself after two hours of scrolling on Instagram. Avoid making plans if I don’t already have plans. Pick up Indian food dressed like a coked out Lindsay Lohan from the restaurant around the corner. Binge eat so much goddam butter chicken. Maybe cry. Watch a documentary and cry some more. Text my best friend Sarah to see what she’s up to. Delete dating app after seeing and almost accidentally swiping on someone I know. Throw phone across room and fall asleep with the lights on.

SUNDAY MORNING Go for a run or walk to get a coffee. Do some productive shit like groceries or laundry.

SUNDAY NIGHT Make an excuse why I can’t go for dinner at my parents house (don’t lie we’ve all done this). Subtweet about a boy I feel salty about. Watch 25 YouTube videos about productive morning routines to make myself feel productive. Fall into Sunday depression and question all my life decisions and wonder why I’m such a loser. Do a face mask because skin care is the only thing I can do right in that moment. Deal with the mountain of dirty dishes that I’ve left in my sink. #sundayscaries

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I had what I was supposed to have as a independent single person: the bachelorette pad downtown to myself. It was the perfect location, size and decorated the way I liked it. So why, amongst this space that was just mine (that I thought would make me feel like an adult), did I feel so empty? Don’t get me wrong – I loved certain parts of my alone time: making myself pancakes on Sundays. Being able to walk around naked. Living in my own mess and nobody telling me to clean it. Being loud or quiet. Looking back I thought I was living the dream being on my own, but whose dream was it? It’s hard to say, but maybe it was Sex and the City that first put the idea in my head that a successful independent women has a space of her own even in one of the most expensive cities in the world. I never questioned if it was MY dream. I don’t need to be on my own to be strong. I know that now more than ever because I’m stronger than I ever have been. This lesson extends to many parts of my life, but the most obvious thing to me is that I’m so much happier not eating alone every night. Right now I’m feeling extra grateful that I’m in a hostel living and working with a group of great people (socially distanced from the rest of the town) instead of being isolated by myself. Because I’ve been there. And I know what it feels like. Living alone didn’t make me feel the way I thought it would and that’s ok. I’ve grown so much more not because I’m alone, but because I’m surrounded by good people, and that’s ok to admit. Letting go of living alone as part of my idea of “making it” is ok. Craving connection after being alone too much is ok. We’re gonna be ok. #sololife #solotravel #solotraveler #covid19 #independentwoman #loveyourself #thepowerofnow #liveyourtruth #growthroughwhatyougothrough #vulnerabilityisstrength

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Based on what you read above I think I have an idea of what that was like for people who had to lock themselves away all on their own. It didn’t take a virus to make me keep people at a distance – it was feelings of unworthiness and ideas about what self-reliance was supposed to look like that made me stay away.

The neuroscience researcher John Cacioppo of the University of Chicago has been studying loneliness for over 20 years. He defines loneliness as perceived social isolation. We experience loneliness when we feel disconnected. Maybe we’ve been pushed to the outside of a group that we value, or maybe we’re lacking a sense of true belonging. At the heart of loneliness is the absence of meaningful social interaction—an intimate relationship, friendships, family gatherings, or even community or work group connections.

BRENE BROWN

The funny thing is, the more time I spent alone when I lived alone, the less I felt like I belonged in my social groups, and the more I thought I should be alone. It was a fucked up cycle, and I often turned to Instagram and dating apps instead of showing any sort of vulnerability and turning to my friends and family for connection. Talk about the path of least resistance.

Hindsight is honest, and I didn’t realize the extent of how this habit was impacting my emotional wellbeing until I ended up locked down during the height pandemic in a hostel with 10 other people in the middle of Queensland, Australia. We got to know each other, lived together, grocery shopped together, worked in an apple packing shed, ate together and basically spent every waking moment together. I opened up to them and showed up even when I felt unworthy (where’s my medal?) and allowed myself to feel loved and accepted. I recognized that the way I was spending my time before wasn’t relaxing or restorative.

I thought I would be going nuts being around other people so much, turns out that being alone and scrolling as much as I was before was making me a little nuts.

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So during the height of the pandemic I was locked down in a hostel and working in an apple shed with a group of people I would come to connect with deeply. This experience made me realize, after living alone for three years, that eating dinner is more fun with other people (especially when it involves dancing to help with digestion 🤣) and spending too much time on my own isn’t good for my mental health. Today was the first day we split apart fully. Many I’ve already said goodbye to, but this group (in the photo) went off to keep adventuring down the coast and I’ll now be staying in Cairns for who knows how long (lol) to work on some creative projects I’ve been slowly chipping away at since coming to Australia. They’ve taught me to embrace silliness, the importance of stretching and speaking clearly, how to cook all sorts of stuff, new ways of seeing the world, what confidence can look like and made me realize that there is nothing more important than connection. I’ve always traveled alone and been a independent person, but I am a million times more open and joyful because of what I have shared with them: my food, my soul, my toiletries, my weird humour, my secrets, my memories, my dreams, my doubts, my fears and my hopes for the future. I said this in the last boxing class I ever taught and I’ll say it again: we’re not meant to do it all on our own. They reminded me of that ❤️ #loveyours #travelaustralia #backpackerlife #vulnerabilityisstrength #courageovercomfort #peopleneedpeople #bravingthewilderness

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Obviously I still adore pockets of time to myself here and there, especially when I need to check in on if I’m living my values, but this experience of living with other people also made me realize how much what I was doing before wasn’t working. Turns out, the story I had always told myself about what independence was supposed to look like was basically just forced social starvation which ain’t it. I know that now.

There’s a reason Carrie Bradshaw hardly ever ate dinner in her apartment by herself and there are so many sitcoms based around groups of room mates.

We’re not meant to go without authentic connection. It makes us human.

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Author: Hi I'm Raegan!

I'm a 26-year-old wannabe writer living in Australia. I lived in Canada until I had a quarter-life crisis, so I left my beautiful little bachelor apartment, quit my career in PR and event planning and moved down under in the name of personal growth. I don't drink, I love cooking plant-based food and trying different workout classes brings me joy. I do my absolute best to live by the principles of minimalism and intersectional feminism. I describe my blog as unapologetically honest, vulnerable and real. At its core, 'What Comes Next' is about the messiness and hilarity of navigating change as a millennial. Join me on my journey as I try to tackle big questions like "what comes next?" with as much grace, strength, and sarcasm as possible.

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