There’s a certain point in life when you know things aren’t the same. It’s not a given, or blatantly obvious. There’s no one on the corner with a bullhorn telling you that this is how the world works now or that what you once had is still intact. There’s no subtle nod or someone handing you a message as you walk in the door telling you that you have to readjust your expectations.
Before the pandemic I did something rather foolhardy, I blabbed my mouth off about a crush I had on a former coworker and friend. This was a mistake of monumental proportions that would tread through into the present day. I told EVERYONE. At the time I simply thought I was seeking advice, but in hindsight, I was merely doing this to exercise what I knew to be a miraculous longshot out of me.
Fast forward to my roommate telling me my time was up. I had to find a place of my own as he decided it was time to move in with his significant other. This was a shitshow in and of its own device after I found out he had lied to me and told me initially he had planned to move out and that I could keep the apartment and move in someone else to take his place. In reality he never had planned to move out. I wasn’t prepared to do so either. These two events, my crush and moving out, snowballed straight into the pandemic. I was a mess, and I was thrown straight into isolation. My consolation was an emergency bachelor apartment that said, “Hey you’re not completely fucked but you should sit out a few months here.”
One of the last times I saw the majority of the people I hung out with in person was a work hosted event at a bar in Mar Vista a few months after I had moved into my solo apartment. I remember seeing my crush walk into the bar having been invited by a member of our department, I went to say hello, and that moment became a moment transfixed in abject horror. “I see you…”, she said as she fled to other side of the bar. I was fucked. The jig was up. My big mouth had said too much. I knew instantly in that moment I was a fucking idiot. I barely said goodbye to anyone that night and left a short time later. We all have our regrets in life, but acting like a high schooler and blathering about someone who was way out of my league was phenomenally high up there.
In the height of the pandemic I remember thinking how glad I was to have the ability to call my friends over Discord or Zoom so that we could game together, engage in a D&D session or just shoot the breeze while we were incessentally bored while waiting out what could be our Contagion. It was a great way to pass the time while those around us were succumbing and suffocating and withering away to Covid as it ravaged and stole like a robber baron with no abandon.
Hope was on the horizon, an unsaid knowledge that eventually things would return to normal. For some, it did. But for others, it fell the dominoes we didn’t know were set in it their spots waiting for that slight push or a gust of wind to propel them to the ground, clattering and echoing as they collectively found their new homes in a order that was unrecognizable.
Covid taught us that we had to rely on ourselves. This was nothing new to me. I spent the entirety of my collegiate studies by myself, living in a studio apartment hours from family or friends or school. I had the concept mastered already. After that unfortunate end with my ex-roommate I was happy to have a place to myself while everyone around us became walking biohazards, unknown around every cough or sneeze or breath.
So to online video calls and gaming we went. Propping up ourselves through cameras and microphones to keep our sanity by roleplaying characters in scenarios or taking shots at enemies in the latest FPS game, that became life for awhile. Messages coordinated our every meetup online through Slack or texts. Sometimes we couldn’t make it, or sometimes we just didn’t want to do it. Living day to day in a world of unknown was burden enough. We were taught that if friends disappeared for awhile or didn’t message or call back that that was OK (and it was). We were simply just trying to survive. So we tried.
At some point people became comfortable enough to be in a bubble, and only that bubble of people that they could trust. They would ONLY go to that friend or family’s house, and that house only. This of course didn’t stop everyone from running around and gumming up the works by being maskless or reckless, but many people were sensible enough to keep it together.
The moment I knew I was no longer in their bubble, that things weren’t the same was when I was constantly scrolling (or doom scrolling – however you want to put it) social media. I noticed that I hadn’t been invited to a gathering. Pictures and videos went up on the feeds of dinners and parties, and the common denominator I knew was missing one thing. I’m hardly the life of the party type of guy, but at least I got invites before the pandemic kicked off in full force.
I remember when I was younger watching episodes of TV shows were characters realized things had changed, that people moved on from their social activities and had to live their lives in a new, lonelier fashion. They might get married or have relationships but ultimately a more isolated position took its place, like moving to the suburbs or beginning life in a brand new city for a new job.
The pandemic isn’t over, but life changed again. People began being more comfortable together again, life semi-resumed into a workable, more sociable fashion. But I noticed the phone wasn’t lighting up anymore. I realized that this was life now. The survival part was mostly over (except of course for the less fortunate immunocompromised), but this was where I came out. I’m an inherent people pleaser, at the cost of my childhood. I’ve racked up many friendships, but at some point I spread myself too thin. The social group I thought I could rely on fell like a house of cards. The glue to my social group left the city, and I was the excess that could be paired off like gristle on meat. I was no longer needed or thought of. I paid the price for my own foolishness.
I felt like the fool that I was in the bar that night. Now I had nothing. But that wasn’t without its own asterisk. The likelihood that I would still be surrounded by the same people sans the glue of the group is not exactly high. I would likely be in the same position that I am now, in a big city with little friends that I see more than once every few months, and living isolated and alone.
Life isn’t always kind, and as we get older we shed the things that once were: the people we used to be, the things we held on to, or the people that made us what we are. I just didn’t think it would happen so suddenly or so painfully over such a question mark in human history. But life doesn’t care, we either move on or we get left behind.
I’m still making my peace with this shift in life. My naivete with where I was at that stage in the game is my own undoing. But as I move on towards bigger and better things I can only hope that I have my eyes and ears open fully to making sure I don’t repeat what came before. Most of my days now consist of working from home and sometimes playing games on Twitch, but I know that may not last either. There’s more change to come. This is life now.