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COVID has ravaged communities, leaving almost everyone across the world feeling its impact. However, as the perpetual optimist that I am, I try to look for what I have gained or what I can learn from every situation. Since many people are getting vaccinated and beginning to gather together again safely, the era of the novel coronavirus is coming to a close. So, I’ve taken some time to look back on the past year and realize what I learned from a year with minimal social interaction. The biggest takeaway that I found was how much more prepared I now feel to do activities alone. 

As an only child, I’m no stranger to doing things alone. Additionally, big cities are often full of people living their own lives, completing their tasks without accompaniment. In smaller towns across most of the United States though, people used to give you an odd look or ask if you wanted someone to sit with whenever you’d go out alone. Luckily, during the pandemic, doing activities alone became normalized. I picked up a few new tips and tricks from watching other people interact with society alone, as well as my own experiences this year.

It has always helped me, as a more petite woman in society, to feel prepared whenever I go somewhere alone. In a pandemic, that’s even more important! Be sure you have an extra mask packed. I like to look up my route ahead of time to see if there’s traffic when I plan to drive. If I’m walking and unfamiliar with where I’m going, I’ll look up my route there too, just to ensure it’s safe. During the pandemic, I also started looking up the business hours of my planned location(s). Many businesses changed their hours during the height of the pandemic, and I didn’t want to go out for no reason! 

Additionally, making meal reservations ahead of time is ideal. During a pandemic it ensures you can get a table with proper social distancing measures in place to minimize your exposure. In normal times, it allows both you and the wait staff at the restaurant to come to terms with the idea that you’ll be dining alone, which results in a smoother interaction upon your arrival at the restaurant. However, if you want a more social dining experience, I found that popping into more casual restaurants and finding a seat at the bar, which are always bustling with chatty people, to be a very enjoyable meal as well.

I also picked up the idea to bring my own entertainment whenever I went out alone from other people during the pandemic. I noticed many more mothers sitting quietly over a bowl of soup or a cup of coffee outdoors with a book in their hands, enjoying the silence. Bringing a book, or some other form of entertainment, with me to enjoy while I completed my activities seemed like such a brilliant idea. It clearly signifies to others that you’d prefer not to be bothered, you’re purposefully there alone, and it provides you something to occupy your mind with! 

Though the novel coronavirus took many things away from me this year, as I’m sure it did to you as well, it also allowed me to further develop the art of doing things alone and pick up a few new ideas while at it. 

Katie Ryan

Columbia Barnard '24

Katie is an incoming first year at Columbia College. She's a coxswain for the men's heavyweight crew team and spends her free time working out, volunteering, and reading. Katie is planning to double major in English & Comparative Literature and Human Rights, specializing in Economics.
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