Our Time Alone Together, but Separate
Late last year, one rainy afternoon I settled on an at-the-time recently released documentary on Netflix titled, “Lorena, Light-Footed Woman.” Initially, I expected to have it on in the background while I wrapped up a project, but instead I ended up becoming engrossed in the story of 25 year-old runner Lorena Ramírez.
The story focused primarily on her athleticism, tenacity, and the legacy she was carrying on-- her father was also a distance runner. However, what actually drew me in enough to set my work aside and give it my full attention was the background story playing out alongside the focus of the documentary, which was the coming-of-age story of a young woman growing up within the confines or sanctuary (depending on if you’re a pessimist or optimist) of the Tarahumara tribe nestled in the Sierra Madre Occidental mountainous range of Chihuahua, MX. There were many points within the story that made me want to track this young woman down and befriend her, or at the very least have a conversation with her. I wanted to know more, not really about her passion for running although I don’t know that it was quite a passion as much as perhaps a calling or routine.
No, I wanted to know more about her and her life as a whole. I had questions. Questions like was she resentful or sad that she had not been granted the opportunity to obtain an education like some of her brothers did, how did she view the world--outside of her homeland? Did she ever desire to leave? What would she want to do as a profession or in life in general, given the opportunity? I sensed that she is likely the holder of much wisdom.
Most importantly I wanted to know if she was ever lonely? The impression that one got from this film was that this young woman, perhaps by choice, lives a fairly solitary life. She appears somewhat contemplative and almost philosophical in various moments, yet there was also a bit of a serenity and tranquility present.
I also wondered if I could ever spend that much time alone. Not only alone in my own home or just weekends of unplugging and disconnecting, but the kind of solitude found from spending days, weeks, months in a remote underdeveloped area with only your own thoughts.
I actually know that I would be fine, I was an only child for about 7 years until my brother was born and as much of a “social butterfly” as I can be, I actually really do enjoy my alone time and actually need it to recharge. However, as much as I enjoy nature I don’t know that I’d thrive in a desert-like mountainous range like that young woman’s daily setting, as my settings of choice for getting away do give a preference for more green and bodies of water near.
Anyhow, fast-forward to only a few months later to where we are all being forced to spend time in a sort of confinement either on our own or with others--housemates, family, etc. When all of this started to take place and it was clear that the physical-distancing would continue for much longer than any of us had anticipated, I did become concerned for humanity as a whole as I know not everyone is good at being alone and knew that stress-levels, mental-health issues, depression, OCD, etc. could really do great damage in this environment where the pandemic and aftermath it brings only serve as the conduit for those prime for a breakdown.
My mind wandered back to that documentary and that young woman.
For me it was a little bit of the opposite situation, and something that some of you may also be experiencing. In the first couple of weeks of the physical-distancing period, I genuinely felt like I needed a break from too much human-interaction, albeit primarily virtual. It was a whirlwind of virtual meetings with various teams of folks, as everything I am involved in professionally and personally, needed immediate attention and swift action as the world went digital overnight--which meant non-stop daily meetings. I also added more meetings and more teams to my spare-time schedule as many of us jumped into action to help further causes to help with the pandemic.
Thankfully though, I do love what I do professionally and personally.
Outside of all of that, it felt like many of my friends also needed some sort of human interaction as virtual birthday parties, happy hours, viewing parties all made their way onto my schedule. As I’m sure gamers and engineers and developers likely know, there is such a thing as a virtual hangover. I am not complaining that I had so many people reaching out to me wanting to engage, I am very lucky to have so many great people within my circles and I know not everyone is as lucky (if you find that you need a larger circle of friends, send me a message and I can introduce you to many new people)--in fact, this knowledge is one of the reasons that at our Rock Camp we created the “If you need a friend, be a friend” philosophy for our campers and volunteers.
While on my professional side I am used to being in many meetings or working in digital and virtual spaces, in the past couple of weeks I decided to be a little more protective of my personal time as I typically would in the pre-COVID era. However, as I started to reset some of those boundaries around my off-time to not burn myself out it also made me realize that even though I am typically surrounded by people through most of my days between work, projects, and a sometimes busy social life there were always moments that allowed me to take a break from human interaction even if it was just the time spent in my car driving from one location to another. Those moments of temporary respite do actually help.
I know that taking time for yourself even while physical-distancing is something that could be hard, especially if you have a full household currently quarantining with you. However, I encourage you to take even a little time each day to spend time with yourself and if you have the opposite problem where you feel alone or anxious to instead of keeping that in, reach out to someone that might offer you some positivity.
If your depression or anxiety persists or grows, please protect your mental health and contact a professional, there are many great resources here. If you have friends or colleagues that you know are prone to depression or are already battling health issues, check-in on them from time to time of your own accord as they may never let on that they need you to. You might just make someone’s day.