Independence During Social Isolation

Independence During Social Isolation by Sage Gilbert - Photo by Ruby Stillman

Though social isolation is a necessity during this trying time for humanity, our health, and the world, it can be a difficult feat.

The most apparent problem that I have noticed within the confines of my house is independent time, or the lack thereof. Yes, there is more time in the day since we can plan out our days to our liking. But with this free time also comes wasted time of just lying around and talking. Don’t get me wrong, I love spending that wasted time with my family, but every day it’s with the same group of people. Every day, the only people I can verbally communicate (face-to-face) with are my mom, my dad, and my three brothers.

After talking to the same people all day every day, I’ve found that I yearn for some time alone. I recognize that I do have a lot of time alone, like when I first wake up in the morning, or when I’m doing my schoolwork. But the independent time that I want is time to watch a movie in a room alone with no social interactions and no distractions.

A couple of nights ago, I attempted to get this time. I scooped some mint chocolate chip ice cream into a bowl, filled a cup with ice water, threw on a sweatshirt, and grabbed a blanket. What else could I possibly need for a night alone? I went into the guest room in our house and made myself comfortable. Two of my brothers were watching Netflix (and only two people could be on our account at a time due to our subscription plan), so I signed into Amazon Prime Video and searched for a movie. I settled on a rom-com. Occasionally, I would check my phone for notifications.

I understand the irony of this situation. My family is social distancing. I can’t see any of my friends in person, so wouldn’t I want to spend time with my family, the only people I can see in person without risking my health? That’s what I thought when the government of California introduced a shelter-in-place initiative.

Turns out, though, that the thing I needed most was time completely alone. I needed time away from my family. I needed to just have two hours to myself. I needed two hours to immerse myself in a world that wasn’t about flashy headlines and health crises.
Ignoring my attempt to be alone, my dad, my mom, and my little brother kept interrupting my time and asking me questions. I can’t remember the last time I watched a movie in a room without distractions. What a first-world problem, right?

In the end, I got my time alone.

Reflecting on this night, I realize that, although we are already isolating (or should be! #FlattenTheCurve), teenagers who are trying to adjust to the new normal need time alone as individuals in this crazy, big world. We need independent time because of all the big changes that are occurring right in front of our faces. Some of us should have been searching for a prom or graduation dress. Others should be on summer break right now, exploring the world.

Due to the loss of graduation, school dances, summer plans, and other events that most of us had been looking forward to for what seems like forever, it is incredibly important, maybe now more than ever, to ignore the craziness for a short time. Take a couple of hours, or even minutes, to yourself to not think about anything that is happening in our chaotic world. Have time for yourself, and don’t regret it.

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Sage Gilbert is a ninth-grader currently attending Piedmont High School in the San Francisco-Bay Area. In her free time, she plays water polo and enjoys spending time with friends and family! In the summer, Sage attends Camp Ramah in Southern California, where her Jewish identity flourishes.
Accompanying photo: “Maggie's House” by Ruby Stillman