Why I’m So Lonely
Reflections on post-pandemic loneliness in a new city
I’m so lonely. Right now, today, I am so so lonely. I feel so lost like I’m just drifting through life, stuck in the post-pandemic doldrums.
It occurred to me last week that my pandemic life and my post-pandemic life are very similar. I spend most of my time in this house — a row house in North West Philadelphia on a sunny street just a couple blocks from the Schuylkill River. I work for a company based in the Bay Area. I’ve never met my coworkers in person.
I don’t know anyone here.
We moved to Philadelphia in October, and then the winter hit, and the pandemic made it difficult to do much of anything. Eventually, the spring came and gave way to the summer. We got vaccinated. The mask mandates ended. Friends and family visited and left, and my wife and I are just here. Working, playing with the cat, watching TV, buying groceries and shopping online.
I feel like I lost a year. I have to keep reminding myself it’s not 2019 because March 2019 was the last time I felt like myself. It feels like last year was a long, strange dream. Now, I’ve opened a door to a closet and accidentally ended up in Narnia.
Reading about friend reunions and people going to birthday parties and putting on pants again makes me feel sad and left out of the big post-pandemic party I feel like everyone is having — except those of us who moved during the pandemic. It feels like a double loss. The losses of last year, and the loss of not joining in the gatherings with old friends.
If you are experiencing this too, know that we are not alone. According to the US Census Bureau, 29.8 million people moved or relocated in 2020. Bloomberg reports the most dramatic population outflows were, not surprisingly, in the San Francisco Bay Area and New York. This underlines my experience moving from our 300 square foot Manhattan apartment. I’ve also watched from afar as my co-workers moved out of the Bay Area throughout the past year, buying homes in greener, cheaper, less smokey pastures.
Most people have stayed in the same general region, according to Bloomberg, but whether you’ve gone 10 or 100 miles finding comfort and connection in a new place is hard.
I’ve thought about moving back to Manhattan, but I bought this house.
Anyway, many of the people I knew there moved or are planning to move. So where I lived, that place in that time is gone. That chapter has ended. On the bright side, I haven’t seen a cockroach in months.
I don’t really know how to connect with or find people. Let me be precise, I want to know how to find people that share common interests and sensibilities. I’m actually an administrator for neighborhood LGBTQ+ groups on Facebook and Nextdoor. But I don’t know how to translate those online connections to real-life ones. In fact, last week, I went to a book club and meet up at a brewery, but it’s like, now what? So, I’ve put more than zero effort into meeting people, which is good, but building relationships takes time, and I’m lonely and impatient with the process.
My second challenge is I find myself with fewer emotional resources to “put myself out there” and “plan things,” than ever before. I’m a natural extrovert, but after 6 Zoom meetings at my rewarding but demanding role, well, just stick a fork in me, I’m done. I just want to work out, make a meal kit and watch Boardwalk Empire until it’s time to go to bed. That’s not going to help me find community!
Finally, I don’t have any natural tie-ins to communities in my life. I’m not religious. My work is remote. Most of my interests are pretty solitary like reading. Plus, honestly, most people my age have kids, and bless them, have their hands full.
It’s a transitional time. We’re all transitioning to our new “normal” lives. And many of us are transitioning to our new cities and communities.
Did you move during the pandemic? Did you quit your job? How are you doing? Let me know in the comments below.