In a society where women still aren’t truly perceived as entities with autonomy – independent from the man and family – what does it mean to be a woman living alone during a global pandemic?
Social distancing has uprooted, or at least upturned, all of our lives. However, the experiences of someone living alone in addition to social distancing is likely to be very different from those of someone living with others under the same roof. The experiences of a woman living alone and being independent during this period are likely to be even more so.
We spoke to a few women who have been living alone and social distancing through the last few months. As they share their experiences, and tips for other women going through the same, it’s clear that these women have struggled and learned, and survived and thrived.
Virtual Connections, Flourishing Creativity, Self-Discovery, And Freedom
Khushboo, a product manager, has been living in Mumbai, away from her family in Indore, for the last 7 years. However, it wasn’t until the last few months, when her roommate left to go back home during the pandemic, that she had her first brush with living alone.
Friends and family would constantly make worried calls to Khushboo because “Arey tu waha akeli hai!” – much to her amusement. She asserts that she’d rather be locked in alone than be locked in with someone else.
Given her busy schedule before the lockdown and long hours spent in travel, Khushboo would talk to her family in Indore about once a week. Over the last few months, however, she’s been talking to them daily. “I feel more connected now than I did before,” she says. “Everyone has more time on their hands. We talk on Zoom calls daily, watch movies and play games together. I have connected with members from my extended family that I didn’t even know the names of before!”
For Roopal, a writer and single mother, her 6-year-old son was living with his father when the nation-wide lockdown was implemented. She never expected to be separated from her son for this extended period of time. “We are inseparable. The mother had to learn to wean from the child,” she says.
Having anchored her life around her son for the last 6 years, she had to learn to centre her life around herself.
She found out what it was like to cook when the meal was for no one but herself, and find a method of organisation and routine that worked for her. It was odd initially, she says, to allow herself the time to discover, and the freedom to indulge in, her needs. This allowance for reflection, and for new experiences to enter her mind and space, she says, was as wonderful as it was imperative for her creativity and writing.
Dimum, a digital marketing manager and self-proclaimed introvert says that it was “a natural process of doing away with certain comforts that I had before the pandemic, while trying to maintain a semblance of the lifestyle that I had before it.” She feels comfortable and content being by herself.
Mudita, a writer, says that while she spent the initial days of lockdown watching movies and web series, she eventually turned to finding new ways to fill the excess time she had alone.
She learned to write in Punjabi, indulged in her long-harboured desire to play the flute, read voraciously, and expressed her feelings through writing. What started as mere distractions, eventually turned into fulfilling passions.
Toll On Mental And Physical Health
“It was one long perpetual PMS,” Rupal laughs when reflecting on the extreme highs and lows of the last few months. However, she believes she had to go through it all to find the rhythm and middle ground that works best for her.
The lows of the experience for Dimum, on the other hand, translated into actual physical distresses in the form of extreme PMS.
The uncertain times coupled with the news of events unfolding around the world since the onset of pandemic, were disturbing and filled her with equal parts fear and anger.
“The racist attacks on people from the North-East have been rampant – name calling(“corona”), spitting on them or not letting them enter a shop… the list is endless. I was filled with fear and anger. Ignorance is evil, really!”
Mudita was similarly disturbed and upset by the news. Reading and watching about the migrant workers, financial and health crisis had a toll on her mental health. She’s unsure if having somebody around during the low points would have been helpful or detrimental.
While Khushboo enjoyed living alone for the most part, she experienced a moment of true fear one day when her charger stopped working, and her technological devices were either dead or on the verge of dying.
A thought occurred to her that truly scared her – “If anything happens, no one will know.”
She resolved that while physical presence may not be important for her to be connected with loved ones and not feel lonely, she needed to be connected with people in her close physical vicinity as well – especially during these tumultuous times.
“I determined to connect with my neighbours more regularly after that day… the connecting hasn’t really happened yet, but it will soon,” she laughs.
Tips For Other Women Living Alone During The Pandemic
For Roopal, the experience gave her the freedom to self-discover.
Mudita says that especially when living alone during the lockdown, it can be easy to fall into a routine of passivity and not talking to anyone. “This is unhealthy. Becoming aware of that is the first step to getting a healthier routine in place.” She also strongly recommends learning new things. “There are so many online classes teaching you the basics in anything you could possibly want to learn. Learn a new skill. Learn the language of a country you will never visit. This will give you a kick and make you fulfilled like little else will.”
Dimum knows it’s easier said than done, but she suggests doing things that will help you mellow down and keep thoughts of adversities at bay. “The least you can do is to talk to a friend or indulge in an activity you like, be it reading, sleeping, or eating.”
Khushboo also recommends making the effort to reach out to people. “People should know your pattern,” she says. “Just pick up the phone to ask how someone is doing. Text them even if you have nothing important to say yourself. Connect with people living close-by as well.”
You’re Not Alone
Living alone is not a requirement to independence and freedom, just as living with other people doesn’t mean you cannot be independent and free.
However, living alone doesn’t mandate loneliness, especially with today’s technology. When women continue to inevitably be tethered to certain roles when living with others, living independently can have its own perks.
The women in this article make it clear that through all the challenges, it’s possible to find yourself, adjust, grow, and flourish, even when living alone through a global crisis.
On the other hand, if you’re someone who is stranded during the pandemic and living alone for circumstantial reasons, and not voluntarily, this experience can be difficult. Do everything you can to stay calm and avoid upsetting yourself, while the situation is resolved. Read these tips to manage your mental health and cope during this crisis.
Remember, if you’re living alone, you’re not alone – even during a pandemic!
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