• I started to crave the company of people outside my family. There are only so many hours you can be holed up together before your soul is sucked dry. (Moment RF)Source: Moment RF
"I need to reconnect with my pre-COVID self," writes Jo Hartley.
By
Jo Hartley

1 Jun 2020 - 10:19 AM  UPDATED 1 Jun 2020 - 10:19 AM

It was two days before the beginning of lockdown. Sat around a friend’s kitchen bench, tea in hand, a few of us discussed the looming isolation. “It’s not going to be the same venting about life over the phone is it?” one joked. “And what about our monthly dinner catch ups and movie nights?” another friend asked.

“Just think about the party we’ll have when we get our freedom back,” I reassured. Everyone nodded in agreement, raised their tea and committed to FaceTime catch-ups at least twice a week. We concluded it really wouldn’t be that bad. Initially, it wasn’t.

In the first couple of weeks of isolation I embraced the enforced family time. In a bubble of naivety and denial, I viewed it as a little holiday. I missed my friends, but my phone was red hot with incoming and outgoing activity.

In the first couple of weeks of isolation I embraced the enforced family time. In a bubble of naivety and denial, I viewed it as a little holiday.

I was part of five different WhatsApp groups, received multiple Zoom and Houseparty invites and was inundated with Facebook virtual ‘events’. In an ironic way, people were wanting to be more social than ever before. For once, I wasn’t.

By week three that started to change.

I started to crave the company of people outside my family. There are only so many hours you can be holed up together before your soul is sucked dry.

Homeschooling had taken its toll. My husband’s woodpecker typing felt like a hammer to the head and Mr four just needed someone more committed to hours of playing make believe unicorns.

My social bucket was empty, and I needed to fill it up. So, fill it up I did.

I was constantly on Zoom, FaceTime and my phone. I accepted every invite I received and reconnected with people I hadn’t seen for a while. If I hadn’t spoken to anyone for half a day, I started to twitch.

One night after a glass or two of Dutch courage, I joined in with a virtual karaoke party. Some of the attendees were friends, others I didn’t know. Dancing away in my lounge I screeched the words to “Shallow”. It wasn’t quite the same as the real deal, but everyone seemed to be in the spirit.

We shrieked and laughed until the small hours and then I rolled into bed. It was all just a bit of fun. Until it wasn’t.

We shrieked and laughed until the small hours and then I rolled into bed. It was all just a bit of fun. Until it wasn’t.

“So, what’s everyone been up to? Just quiet time at home?” one of my friends joked in our bi-weekly Zoom. While others regaled stories of the horror of homeschooling, I shrugged. These chats had started to feel repetitive. Having to be socially ‘on’ in a time when everything else was off had started to become too hard.

One Friday night I attended a group drink. After spending all day dreading it, I Zoomed in with a false smile on my face and tried not to look desperate to leave. I ended up taking the coward’s way out by hanging up and ignoring the subsequent reconnect calls. The next day I feigned a bad connection.

It became easier to wallow in my cocoon and accept my family’s company alone. I found myself withdrawing from any social interaction. However, as restrictions start lifting, so too must this. As life begins to resemble some sense of normality, I know things have to change.

I need to reconnect with my pre-COVID self. It might be slow going but I’m starting to take taking tentative steps.

I’ve consciously become more active in WhatsApp groups, I’ve started popping in to see close neighbours to say hi, and now school’s returned, I’m getting out the car at pick up to chat to other mums.

I’ve consciously become more active in WhatsApp groups, I’ve started popping in to see close neighbours to say hi, and now school’s returned, I’m getting out the car at pick up to chat to other mums.

Despite my new-found love for elasticated waist bands, I’ve started wearing more respectable clothes and swiping on some lippy. My confidence and social ability often go hand in hand.  

Yesterday I made a couple of friends laugh and had a chat with a stranger at the shops. I felt a glimmer of the old me and a hit of the social dopamine that gives me my high. Perhaps my return to social confidence isn’t so far away. Perhaps, like restrictions, it will just be a case of one day at a time.

People in Australia must stay at least 1.5 metres away from others. Check your state’s restrictions on gathering limits.

Testing for coronavirus is now widely available across Australia. If you are experiencing cold or flu symptoms, arrange a test by calling your doctor or contact the Coronavirus Health Information Hotline on 1800 020 080. The federal government's coronavirus tracing app COVIDSafe is available for download from your phone's app store.

SBS is committed to informing Australia’s diverse communities about the latest COVID-19 developments. News and information is available in 63 languages at sbs.com.au/coronavirus

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