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Thursday, September 17, 2020

This Odd Lack of Human Connection

It has been such a weird six months.  As many of you know, yesterday I sat for my first comprehensive exam for my PhD program.  It’s an accomplishment (I hope I passed), but it’s also just another step (there are two more written exams and an oral exam before moving on to yet the next part of the program).  A year ago, if you had asked me what I planned to do to celebrate, it would have looked decidedly different from what I actually did.  To be honest, at present I am tucked away in a hotel room by myself, as is my typical modus operandi for soul care time, primarily because I couldn’t imagine taking this exam at my home (which has become quite conducive for most work, but this was exceptional), or while wearing a mask at the public library, or in the same situation at my school’s library, where I would have had to change my student status and submit to a Covid test just to show up.  Thus, the hotel…

I was pleasantly surprised by the number of friends, family members, and colleagues who prayed for me yesterday and who sent texts and messages to encourage and then congratulate me for checking another requirement off the list.  I appreciated every single interaction.  But I also want to take the time to lament this era of life during which there are no high fives, fist bumps, or hugs.  Even as an introvert who needs alone time to adequately recharge, I have to admit that I am desperate for physical human connection, and I just feel kind of sad.[i]

I was pondering this in my vehicle, at a stoplight, listening to angsty music, by myself, at lunchtime.  I hadn’t planned to pick up carry-out for lunch, but then I felt inclined to at least be in the same space as someone who might hand me a paper bag filled with lemon chicken and fortune cookies, so I made the trek.  On the way back to the hotel, waiting for the light to change, I noticed that the woman in the car next to mine was waving wildly.  I couldn’t tell what she was saying, but I thought it might have something to do with my phone, which was firmly attached to the dash, and to be honest it looked like she might be angry.  On a whim, I thought, “well, what the heck,” and I rolled my window down. 

She exclaimed, “I love your phone holder!  Where did you get it?”

And then I broke into a huge smile… and then she broke into a huge smile… and then it hit me that I haven’t been that close to another human being (except the people who live in my house), both unmasked, in so long that I had forgotten what it looked like and felt like when people in the same space shared this very normal human facial expression.  I told her where I got my phone holder.  She also complimented my steering wheel cover.  The light turned green as she shouted, “I’m going to get one of those!”  We both drove off. 

This is not how I envisioned celebrating this moment.  I still feel sad, but I am also reminded that much of our experience is temporary, and although that might actually make things feel worse sometimes, today I think it brings hope.  I miss people… and places… but this won’t last forever.  I cannot wait to have a gigantic party someday![ii]


[i] Also, I am so recharged at this point I think I might be giving off a fluorescent aura.

[ii] Maybe the least introverted thing I’ve ever pondered, but so be it…