Who are you really? This question is best asked in context. You may be a musician professionally, a husband at home, and an anarcho-socialist politically. However, who are you when you have nothing or nobody to relate yourself with? That is to say — who are you when you are completely and utterly alone?
Have you ever lived alone, dear Reader? For me, the answer is (somehow) not really…. I grew up in a family, and had roommates, housemates, and “apartmates” ever since. The closest I ever got to living “alone” was my two years in a single dorm room during graduate school. However, while this provided a great amount of solitude, regular trips to the bathroom and kitchen were welcome reminders that I lived with others in a community. I live with my boyfriend now and before the pandemic there were several instances when he would leave for a few days at a time for travel. On these occasions, while I was left alone, I did not really feel lonely as I was out and about and with people every single day. Nowadays, however, with the pandemic undercutting our ability to socialize, “living alone” has gained a whole new meaning.
While I have been lucky to quarantine with a partner, for these past few days I have been on my own and I must say, it’s putting me on edge. This (admittedly) short period of alone-some-ness was surprisingly eye-opening.
In physics, “the observer effect is the disturbance of an observed system by the act of observation.” For example, when we take blood pressure, we must use a blood pressure cuff to squeeze the arm (we are disturbing the arm to measure blood pressure, which could affect the blood pressure). Another example is when we measure tire pressure. When we affix the pump, we inadvertently let out a little air — thereby disturbing the tire, which could affect the tire pressure. While the observer effect is a scientific phenomenon most relevant to quantum physics, I will corrupt its original meaning and apply it to “who I am” living alone versus “who I am” living with people.
When I live with people (i.e. observers), I am “disturbed” by their presence and therefore I am tidier, quieter, and more self-conscious (i.e. the effects of observation). When I live alone (i.e. no observers) …I am no longer the tidy, quiet, and self-conscious person I thought I was (i.e. the effects of no observation). So, following along with this metaphor, I have created a table below to show who I am under observation (with people) and without observation (alone):
I am very fortunate that I normally do not live alone. Humans are self-conscious animals in clothing. When I live with people, I am reminded of and act in accordance with my sense of humanity. When I live alone, I shake off some of the shackles invisibly binding me to a sense of human decency. I enjoy being a well-adjusted and well-connected human, which for me requires social interaction. As an introvert living alone, it can be easy to “forget” to connect with others. So, this time, when I knew I would have a few days on my own, I made it a priority to find ways to connect with others. I signed up to participate in social events including a hike organized through MeetUp.com, a drop-in dance class, and I scheduled a call with friends. Meaningful socialization is always important and if you can do so safely — do so abundantly!
I wish you good company and great times.