Friendship

The Importance of Friendship During a Pandemic

By Alex Stewart

It was a Friday morning, and my mother and I were both absolutely inundated with work deadlines, particularly frustrating on the day before the weekend starts.

She was being swallowed by emails from her boss, each of which had a minimum of two action items. And I was facing three deadline-driven work projects.

Still, the load seemed uniquely lighter because we were in it together, and ever since this pandemic struck, we’ve tried to have mother-son work-from-home-time together a day or two per week. 

Here’s the coolest thing about those moments: in them, between the insane, zone-out level work focus, we tend to have these fairly deep micro-conversations. Conversations that include her desire to be a grandmother and how she can’t wait to retire. Because, and I’m sure you guessed it, all of her friends are retired and already have the cutest grandchildren on earth.

However, on Friday in particular, our conversation waned over to her social life, a subject that I find particularly amusing. It makes me so happy. I enjoy hearing about the Frankie Beverly and Maze concerts, or the “Book Club” meetups.

What really sparks my interest though, is that I know how far she’s come. 

Challenge #1

Call three of your closest friends to check in on how they’re feeling, and, to tell them that you miss seeing them.

Something we can all agree on, empirically speaking, is that COVID-19 has divided us into two unofficial categories.

The first includes those that, while remaining safe, want to live life as normally as possible. The second is the group of risk averse citizens who must at all times be the standard-bearers that remind us, “We are living through a pandemic, darn it.”

My mother is a card-carrying member of the latter group. Naturally, she gushes about how she’s “tired of COVID” and how she misses hanging out with her friends, doing dinners on the westside and summer nights at the Hollywood Bowl.

This particular conversation, however, took a different than expected turn. She paused for a second, looked up over her computer, and in a moment of transparency said, “I just really hope things go back to being the same. We had so much fun.”

She was talking specifically about the social groove her and her besties had created. Myself, being an early thirty something social human, had never once questioned the return to normalcy. I’ve never given a second of thought to whether or not my best buddies and I would pick up exactly where we left off pre-pandemic.

I mean, yes, the doubling down on relationships that germinated during the past several months is a real thing. But surely it won’t affect our post lockdown fun.

Next, my mom took a second of pause. Like a mathematician, she was running through the gamut of potential outcomes, all of which led her to the inevitable thought that in some way, her closest of close mates, would become so normalized by their current lives that they would no longer be conditioned to “pull it together” to go out with the squad when you’re tired.

Maybe, just maybe, they would find a new, incubated groove, where socialization would be relegated to Zoom calls and particularly exclamatory text messages. 

Challenge #2

Sit down for 30 minutes and come up with three SAFE outings for yourself and your friends when restrictions are lifted, presumably in 2021.

It opened my eyes, so much so that it made me want to take action. To call out and actively fight the cloud of melancholiness that looms at the end of the lighted tunnel for some of us.

Our weapon of choice is awareness. Awareness of the fact that this pandemic circumstance is real, but fleeting. Life will return to normal. And when it does, we will be reunited with the need to socialize with those who love and support us.

Let’s not forget them now. The ultimate proof of being in this together is a commitment to one another that we will be in this after it is over. 

For whoever these words touch, let’s not become so comfortable in isolation, and begin to think that love and support isn’t needed. It is.

We are in this together. And we will be in this after.

Call your best friends. Create new networks. Try new hobbies. All of it will be artillery to build on once the world returns to us.  

Dr. J. hugging a volunteer at a skid row event
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