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This piece was written as a contribution to the Soaring Twenties (STSC) Symposium. This month’s theme is “isolation.” The STSC is a group of people who write, paint, and make stuff.

From isolation to loneliness

When Covid hit, it affected me the least out of anyone I know.

I was working from home and that home happened to be a pretty remote village. How remote? Well, when our garden ends, the woods and fields begin. There were 13 inhabitants in the village at the time and 15 houses, most vacant. I was physically isolated, if not mentally, from the situation. 6 feet? More like 6 km.

So an even more thorough isolation began. Work, walk, eat, sleep, order specialty coffee via mail, put on a mask, get some food, repeat. Week after week, month after month,... No big deal.

And yet, as time went on, even I, an introvert used to that life, began to feel a certain mental strain associated with my techno-hermit lifestyle. Simple isolation (an objective reality) turned into loneliness (a subjective reality).

A pressure began to build up and I knew it was time for change.

From loneliness to serendipity

Why did I begin to feel lonely, despite my adeptness at dealing with isolation?

I think it comes down to this: isolation needs a purpose, a direction, otherwise it'll turn into loneliness.

Pre-virus, I made the choice to be in the village to focus on work and build something meaningful. I have done that, but as time went on, my work-drive began to wane.


It's as if I was traveling through space with hyperdrive and suddenly popped out of the bubble, lost in the vastness of space.


When I had a clear north star, solitude was not a big weight on my shoulders.

“He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.” ― Friedrich Nietzsche

However, when my north star began to fade, solitude turned into loneliness. Isolation only felt lonely when it was purposeless. Isolation was not the issue, purposeless isolation was.

It was time to change. It was clear that I needed to embrace serendipity: meet people, go places, have new experiences outside my previous routine. I started swing dancing and then moved to the big city to dance almost every day. I think I actually "found my passion" (or a passion, in any case).

From serendipity to isolation again

Arguably, I took this to the extreme in the last year. Always meeting people, chatting, doing this and that with them,... I began to see the usefulness of measured isolation again as a way to reset and process my own wants, thoughts, and feelings.

Curiously, when I lived in the village it was easier to be deliberate about putting myself out there, whereas I often feel like busyness is the easy default to slip to in the city. It takes an extra measure of intentionality to elect isolation. Modern technology doesn't make it easy.

I also started to see isolation as a necessary component of learning (as applied to swing dancing, for instance.)

, with purpose

You need to isolate specific movements and train them with high frequency to get better at it. If you only go to social dances, progress will be glacial. You'll only do the things you already know. You only solidify what you know, but you don't expand it.

Only by going to classes and structuring your own training sessions do you add things to your repertoire.

In short, you don't learn at a swing party, you learn when you isolate a sequence of moves and isolate yourself with another person for 2 hours at a time, a couple times a week.

In a similar manner, I find that I best process my own thoughts and feelings alone: by walking or journalling, typically.

Purposeful isolation is a catalyst to growth.

Let's conclude with some general thoughts on isolation.

There's a balance to be had between serendipity and isolation. Exploration and depth.

I leave it up to you to figure out which you need more of at this point in time.