Kirkwood High School student newspaper

Laurel Seidensticker

Quarantine has been a difficult time for everyone, but in it, I rediscovered the ability to be alone.

Alone – Kailey Shirrell

Isolation, a word with such a negative connotation, is arguably the worst thing you could do to a person. As humans, we are a social species, ones who thrive by connecting with others. So by all accounts, the last 14 months should have been pure torture. And yet, I loved them. 

It’s not that I enjoyed having the time to be productive, I didn’t do a single worthwhile activity over quarantine. I didn’t go on a diet, start journaling or reorganize my room — all the things I said I would do. But honestly, doing nothing was one of my better decisions. 

So if I wasn’t being productive, what was it about the isolation that I was so fond of? Maybe it was because I could enjoy free time that I hadn’t had since elementary school. Or being able to see friends that were always busy. It could have been because I picked up old interests and did all the things I was stupidly terrified to do. Like dying my hair pink — it was semi-permanent and barely showed up — or making my first attempt at winged eyeliner. But I believe it was because I learned how to thoroughly enjoy my own company. I learned how to be alone. 

I started to read again, an activity I had slowly lost touch with. I used to be the kid who got yelled at for secretly reading in class or sneaking books into tests instead of cheat sheets. But as I got older, and school became more important, I became the kid who stopped reading because I needed to finish a project or study. I no longer stayed up at night secretly reading, losing myself in stories of great adventure. Instead, I lost sleep over upcoming tests, losing myself in anxiety and stress. 

When COVID-19 hit, my one wish, for the world to stop turning — even if just for a moment — was fulfilled. Suddenly I was devouring books like a man half-starved, making up for all the lost time that I hadn’t spent thoroughly enjoying my existence. Maybe saying I learned how to be alone was an oversimplification; I always could be alone, I just forgot how gratifying it was to spend time with myself. 

I have spent so much of my life working to help my future self. Making sure future-me was on the right track. I never understood the saying, enjoy the journey, not the destination. It felt cheesy; why would I go on a journey if not to reach the destination? I still can’t say I fully understand the saying, but I have learned how to enjoy my time without feeling guilty about being unproductive. OK, maybe I still sometimes feel guilty. I have yet to find a balance between the two, but quarantine reminded me that I need one. I finally understand how important it is to simply enjoy life — that all the important things and the true milestones exist internally and can only be accessed alone.

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