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You're Not Alone If You've Forgotten How to Socialize Due to COVID-19

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Twelve months ago, it would’ve been impossible to picture where we would be standing today. That’s because for most of us, we’ve entered unknown territory, one that few of us were prepared for. But when governments across the globe introduced lockdowns, curfews, and other stay-at-home orders, none of us could’ve expected the full ramifications of that. Because, here we are, almost an entire year later, and most of us are still living through the consequences, only just about to see some of the strictest orders lifted. After a year of isolation, social distancing, Zoom meetings and classes and the strain of work-from-home or furlough hitting most of us hard, the idea of socializing away from a computer screen can seem daunting or difficult. We’ve spent so long without the general interactions that help us develop our social skills, that the ability to socialize has been taken for granted as one that we will always retain. But, like any skill, socializing involves practice.

I know I’m not the only one guilty of neglecting my social skills. There’s only so much screen-time you can stand in a day, and working or learning from home has laid claim to most of that time and tolerance. Socializing is key to our development– there’s a reason there are so many mom and baby classes; we start the socialization process from the very beginning, learning to play, share and chatter to friends who are learning the same things.

So, how do we get past this? When we are still learning to trust the outside world again, how do we learn to trust others too? With everyone moving down the same path at different paces, how do we know we won’t get left in the dust? 

Socializing may never look the same again, because let’s be honest, will anything? Our only way through this is to keep moving forward and find a new normal

Take it slowly, one foot, one step, one interaction at a time. Learn what we love and what we do not love. Find the best way to keep ourselves going, and learn what works for us in this strange new world.

Because it isn’t just the loss of social get togethers that has led to us isolating ourselves– in many cases, we switched to remote working and learning. If it couldn’t be done online, and wasn’t essential, then it was just forfeited to the circumstances.

And yes, there is finally the promise of a return to a new kind of normal, with multiple vaccines on the horizon and our most vulnerable being offered this protection now, but that doesn’t mean our troubles are over. Instead, many of us are seeing new problems arise.

Socializing may seem daunting now– after all, for most of us in the last year socializing has not been anywhere on our to-do lists. Even our daily encounters have been discouraged and cut short; No more chit-chat at the checkout in the store, no catch-ups in the school grounds at pick-up time. These interactions may seem minimal, but they’re vital. Sometimes, if nothing else, they let us know we aren’t alone.

It seems impossible right now, but we are made to adapt to our circumstances. We’ve survived so much. This is just another stumbling-block on the road to a stronger tomorrow. We’ve been isolated for so long, it’s easy to forget that we are all in this together. We are all walking down this road together right now. Nobody really knows where this road is going, all we can do is keep walking and hope that where it leads is better than where we came from.

That’s not to say it will be an easy journey. Some people are always going to be further down this path than we are, whether we decide to slow down and hold steady or push ourselves to catch them up– well that’s up to us. The people we find on our journey may not be the people we hoped to find, and that’s okay. The world isn’t the same one we were standing on twelve months ago. But, the fact that we are still standing is what we have to hold onto and celebrate, and accept that even though we are all starting out at the same place, our pace can put us on very different journeys.

Socializing may never be what it used to be, because we are not the people we once were. Now, we have to try to find a way to keep our heads above the water and keep swimming, or risk getting swept away in the rising tides.

Above all, remember – you are not alone.

Lead image courtesy of Getty Images

Originally published: March 1, 2021
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