I Chose To Spend Lockdown On My Own, And I Have No Regrets

While my student peers returned to their childhood homes, my desire for solitude became stronger than ever.
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HuffPost UK
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As a university student, I have a room of my own, but not a home.

When the coronavirus pandemic escalated, my shared accommodation started emptying out, everyone around me asking each other ‘when we planned to go back home’. In a matter of days, the borders between countries had closed, opportunities to travel were becoming increasingly scarce, and my flat was rapidly emptying.

When my mom asked if I wanted to leave London, my answer was simple: I had plenty of reasons why I was better off staying where I was. I had already stocked up on food, I could easily get infected at the airport, I could focus better on my writing when alone. Plus, let’s be honest, wouldn’t we kill each other sooner or later, stuck under the same roof with no way out?

Eventually, due only to financial reasons, I decided to leave buying my ticket two days before the UK went into lockdown. There was one condition, however, which I kept entirely to myself: I was only willing to leave after I found out there was a place to live by myself near my parents’ house.

“Most of my life choices are fuelled by my need for solitude, order and independence”

One could argue that this is the best outcome for everyone. I had quarantined for 14 days anyway; by living alone, I am keeping my family safe. But what I’m doing goes much deeper than familial love.

Most of my life choices are fuelled by my need for solitude, order and independence, and the sense of safety I get from those things. Sharing space with others long-term terrifies me more than anything.

My need for privacy, I believe, is the aftermath of my eating disorder’s worst moments. Even though my habits are not as destructive as they’d once been, the company of their echoes mean I’m never really alone. Though I don’t binge or purge – or hide chocolate packets in my room – any more I still flinch when someone disrupts my evening ritual. If I’m completely alone, with no one to knock on my door or see through me, I feel independent and self-sufficient.

Living alone in lockdown, on the good days, I almost fool myself into believing everything is normal. I make my coffee, do some reading and writing, attempt to study. I get a bit too excited about my meal plan for the day. I let myself be spontaneous within my perfectly curated framework. And not one part of my body is tense – I don’t have to prepare five potential scripts for one conversation, or to protect myself from sensory overload. I’m able to breathe freely, unburdened with having to remember how to properly ‘be human’.

“Self-care, I think, requires us to be a bit selfish sometimes.”

On the bad days? Solitude leads my attention to the news, and doesn’t let me forget the reality of what’s going on. In order not to think, I write (very bad) short stories, and sit on my couch with a book in hand, pretending to read and getting disrupted by ideas for (very bad) short stories. I begin to wonder: how does loneliness feel? It used to be a constant, but I don’t remember it any more.

Not a day goes by, however, that I don’t experience this dichotomy between guilt on the one hand and a thrilling sense of independence on the other. I’m still learning how to care for and respect my own needs. Does it mean that my decision could be considered an act of self-love and self-care, or is it mere selfishness? Can it be both?

Self-care, I think, requires us to be a bit selfish sometimes. It requires us to drop toxic relationships, to tune out the voices of those bringing us down. For those of us that are more introverted, it also requires limiting the amount of time we’re able to spend around other people without going crazy.

I’ve always been a lonely type, but my reaction to the pandemic has taken it to an entirely new level. I’ve been building this identity for years and only recently stopped feeling guilty for it.

I still call my mom every day, even though we’re living in the same city, so she’s not as worried about me as she’d been before. The other day, my dad came over to take out my trash – since I can’t yet leave the apartment. He had a mask on, as well as a pair of disposable gloves, and we were standing two metres apart. It was a surreal yet heartfelt moment – and the moment I realised that maybe I have been selfish, and that I have twisted the idea of solitude as self-care on its head.

But I also don’t regret a thing. My parents are staying safe and healthy, and we’re close enough to know we can be there for each other if anything happens. I wake up every day, and flow through ups and downs, and rooms, in between heightened awareness and blissful avoidance. But at least I have the entirety of the air for me and my habits to roam freely.

Alex Blank is a student and writer

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