The Covid-19 Pandemic Isn’t Leaving Me Lonely

Office life isn’t for everyone, which is probably why these days of sheltering in place are not driving me crazy. In fact, for the first time in my nearly 40-year career as a freelance writer, I don’t feel lonely.

Some people envy me for being able to work in my pajamas, not having to commute or tiptoe through minefields of office gossip. Yet, the professional life I have chosen is not easy, and I’m not talking about the feast-or-famine flow of work and income. I’m talking about withering beneath the weight of professional loneliness.

From the moment I knew that I wanted to write for a living, I knew that I would need to do it alone. Writing, after all, requires solitude. What’s more, I am naturally industrious and self-disciplined. I bristle when anyone looks over my shoulder. What’s more, any job requiring an office presence conjures in my head the jangle of a jailer’s keys in the cellblock door. Nothing is less conducive to my creativity.

Yet, nothing smothers my spirit quite like loneliness, which makes my chosen career a very mixed bag.

Yes, I schedule my own workday, which begins before the sun comes up, when my typing and the gurgle of brewing coffee are the only sounds in my house. Yes, I swim morning laps when most people are logging onto their computers. Yes, I stroll through the woods in the late afternoon instead of guzzling a cold brew to kickstart my brain.

But I crave community. I like having colleagues with whom to share excitement or commiserate over a project. I enjoy the physical symbols — an office with my name on the door, dress-for-success clothes — that say I am someone. I know this because I’ve worked as a staff writer for various organizations over the years. I have dressed for success and elbowed through crowds of fellow Starbucks-crazed New Yorkers en route to my private office. And every job has reminded me that I’m happiest when I work for myself, by myself.

This realization has repeatedly returned me to my freelance life — and to the intermittent loneliness that causes me to stare out my home office window, watching neighbors leave for work, wondering how I ended up without a team, catching myself praying for a robo call or two.

Of course, that was all before Covid-19. Thanks to the virus, I’m neither lonely nor envious anymore. My street, usually barren during the work week, is jammed with the cars of my now-telecommuting neighbors. The hiking trails I usually trek alone are packed. My husband, who is rarely home, works in the kitchen and our grown son, in the living room. I have a whole new community — one that will vanish once this public health crisis ends. Then I will return to the normal I know and that, despite the drawbacks, I choose.

Public health writer/editor and author of the memoir, “Salt on a Robin’s Tail: An Unlikely Jewish Journey Through Childhood, Forgiveness, and Hope.”

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