Over the past couple of weeks I have found myself pondering an unprecedented amount of “what-if”s, as I am sure we all have, but there were a few in particular that really stunned me:
- What if I were living alone right now?
- What if I wasn’t privileged with such a wonderful support system?
- What if I was not being checked in on?
An introvert at heart, I am usually incredibly content being alone for some time – reading, listening to music, picking up old hobbies, spending some time alone with my thoughts doesn’t scare me. Having gotten to know myself better over the years, however, I know that I am also someone that heavily depends on social interactions to feel motivated, inspired and healthy. As we were forced to face this global pandemic, I not only considered physical, face-to-face interactions as being essential in our daily lives, I considered any interaction without them to feel unnatural and incomplete. Needless to say, I didn’t have high hopes for the sudden shift to virtual connections this pandemic was enforcing.
It wasn’t as if my skepticism was based in inexperience; as a member of an immigrant family I rely heavily on virtual connections in order to interact with relatives back in Europe. I may not be the best at spontaneously picking up the phone and calling up relatives, but I am certainly no stranger to this being the only way to maintain and practice intergenerational rituals – Professor Loe speaks about the importance of these here . However, I would still much rather hang out with my grandparents in-person rather than over FaceTime – wouldn’t we all?
As the global pandemic continues to take over our lives, it becomes more and more important to provide care to the people in our lives that need it. While we quarantine indoors, technology allows us to easily call up a family member, FaceTime a parent, Netflix Party with our friends, or Zoom into a classroom space. While most of our lives have been drastically altered, the consistency of these interactions can re-introduce some sense of normalcy into our lives. People are finding new and creative ways to interact with each other while still abiding by social distancing measures, turning to technology-driven solutions out of necessity.
I used to think that the physical aspect of care-taking was essential to the practice. In experiencing some of the creative and alternative means of connecting with others, I found myself remembering what care-taking is all about – the emotional, community-building connection formed between individuals. While speaking to my friends, I have taken note of how loved and cared for a simple “Sarah, how are you doing?” has made me feel. Our conversations have shifted from a “let’s make plans” mindset to a “how are we all coping” mentality – in doing so, I believe we are developing some of the essential skills necessary for care-taking. Checking-in on loved ones over the phone or FaceTime may feel like the most simplistic form of care-taking there is, but it is these interactions which make all the difference.
Once the pandemic passes, whenever that may be, I hope that we continue to practice such seemingly-simple yet critical care for others – hopefully reaping the benefits of the care practices which we developed virtually and applying them to our in-person interactions. During these past few weeks I have found myself calling up family members spontaneously and more frequently, making these interactions feel much more natural and real. FaceTiming with friends has become a nightly occurrence and reaching out to old friends feels much easier. I aim to keep up these practices even when I am not forced to do so by a lack of physical proximity, but rather to maintain the sense of community that I have felt form as a result of the chaos we have found ourselves surrounded by.