Just two days ago I had a conversation with someone about social distancing taking its toll on me and the fact that I am beginning to entertain thoughts of becoming a hermit more and more. Let’s face it, on days like these when I read through the news around the world, all the headlines as well as the secondary newsworthy items are distressing, regardless of whether it is regional, national, international, shutting myself off from the world in general is not such a bad idea. I cannot believe that there are still people out there who are convinced that COVID-19 is a hoax, and my blood just curdles when I read about the fatalities. It’s not the numbers that worry me, but the inability of some groups to take the lives of others into consideration. Have you read about the case of one wedding in the Maine where seven of the guests landed in the hospital and another seven died? Or about the boy who lost both his parents to COVID-19? How do people live with themselves and their haunted conscience knowing they were the cause for someone else’s illness or death? I ask all the careless imbeciles out there who still refuse to wear masks or continue to show up in public even though they are already infected – how do sleep at night? This pandemic is not a joke and is creeping into all our lives and homes.
What has 2020 taught us? Many things undoubtedly, and not all of them good, but my greatest takeaway from this bizarre year is the importance of communication as compared to physical presence. We have learned through home office, webinars, podcasts, online schooling, online events, heck, even online clubbing (yes that is a thing now) that continuous communication is essential for our mental health, and physical presence can be entirely optional. Staying away from malls, churches, parties or even the Christmas market is not going to break me, unlike the inability to talk or chat with someone per video, phone or even through a chat. This, I discovered, is strangely easy for me to adjust to, not healthy or a good thing, but let’s just say for argument’s sake that I could live with it, knowing that I always had the option to go out and be among people again.
This year feel like one giant social experiment where we have all been thrust into a lab, turned into rats, and assigned to groups.
Group A: the rats were not allowed out of the box, were given food, light, water, entertainment, but also a limited number of companions.
Group B: the rats were given a bigger area to roam around in, could forage for their own food, go about their regular activities and interact with other rats but only a limited time before being herded back to confinement.
Group C: these rats had a sophisticated biosphere that mimicked the natural environment they were used to, with little or no restraints other than space.
Let’s not get all scientific about the experiment described above, because all three groups exist in all of our societies at the moment, with varying results. Group A has actually been part of several experiments in the past, and like their human counterparts in 2020, took no time in developing violent streaks and turning on each other. The incidents of domestic violence under lockdown this year has exploded, so much so that there are certain signals that can be applied now on a video call if you are a victim of domestic violence and confined at home with the abuser.
Last week I wrote about my dream house being a small cottage by the river or sea, very remote and devoid of neighbours, malls, and even a supermarket. I would have my own garden filled with flowers in front, and fruits and vegetables at the back. If you have ever been to Beatrix Potter’s cottage in Cumbria, this is exactly what I have in mind! Just transfer that cottage to the Isle of Mull and add one hell of an internet connection and I would be good to go! My point being that some of us are discovering that the solitary life to do nothing more than to write and photograph would be absolute heaven!
Unfortunately reality kicks in and ruins the dream! I can’t really complain about my little corner of Berlin though: I live by the river, half the space in my apartment is taken up by plants, and I go out only if I have to, which at the moment is once a week. Commuting is becoming scarier by the day, especially the buses where it is impossible to maintain the prescribed distance. The cats love having me around all the time, and I have daily and weekly communication with everyone I want to keep in touch with, and then some. The beauty of being a hermit is that you also get to shut out everyone else, and yes, this has been an fascinating social learning curve – who really matters to you and that lengths are you willing to go to in order to a. keep safe, and b. keep in touch.
There is another aspect to this social distancing that I would never have considered under “normal” circumstances, and that is networking. Now that I have much more dedicated time for social media, it has been very rewarding to meet new people through channels that I disregarded in the past. The internet is a powerful tool, let us never forget that, and has provided the platforms that can make or break you, depending on how much you put out there. At the end of the day, being comfortable in my own skin and thriving in a solitary life is proving to be my cup of tea after all!