Between work conferences, volunteer board meetings, and distance learning, I am simply and unapologetically done with looking at anyone over a computer screen.
At first, when it seemed as though everyone and every group was hosting happy hours online, I tried a few times. I waited for chat room hosts, strong internet connections, and familiar faces, but it wasn’t the experience I expected or needed. It actually made me sad. Friends and family that I was used to being in the room with were more distant than just hearing their voices on the phone.
The invitations kept coming, and the RSVP lists grew as more and more people figured out the apps and programs to create their own meeting times, and with that, grew my guilt of ignoring them all. With a serious case of FOMO, I made the decision that I would only do the required meetings.
With the struggle of keeping in touch with loved ones through this unprecedented and unfamiliar time, we have to figure out what works for us. If entering a zoom call, selecting video and audio, stresses you out or doesn’t fill your happiness cup, there are many other outlets to connect.
Simple phone calls and texts, voices that were usually heard on a daily basis on early school mornings in the school parking lot were most meaningful in those early days of navigating virtual learning. The group texts deliver mutual support and cocktail memes. The phone calls that last a minute or an hour, relieve the stress of the day without having to move the screen, turn the camera away from naked toddlers, or stare at myself in a little box. The mute button on my phone is easier to find than on my computer when my husband decides that he really needs to use the blender as soon as I get on a call. Not to mention, the added bonus that I can be on mute without anyone ever knowing.
My mom’s group arranged for our regular nights out to be held in empty parking lots, “socially distanced” apart with lawn chairs. While we still avoided hugs and shared food, being near them while talking made it not seem as different as before. Our friends started hosting driveway parties; we hosted outdoor play with our children and pool dates with family. These new gatherings are something that we are continuing to do, seven months later, even though it requires me to wear a bra.
With the new school year upon us, with vast differences from what it looked like last year, my children are also craving socialization beyond the faces in the screen. Everyone has emotional feelings about what is best for their family and we are navigating these deep waters looking for a safety raft. I am grateful for friends that drive by and open their windows and chat for a while. I am grateful for the class parents that think outside the box for us to have our children be connected in person. I am grateful for the hearts that read my anxiety over texts and pick up the phone and call me. I would also like to apologize to all of the runners at the grocery store and numerous restaurants that have carried on frivolous chit chat in the last few months.
I sincerely believe that after this is done and we are able to physically be together, our connections with our friends and family will be deeper. We will be stronger.