Back in my freshman year in university, I was studying for my calculus midterm when I received a message from a high school classmate I hadn’t spoken to in forever. She asked if it was okay to drop by my house because she was going through something she couldn’t deal with alone. I went out—barefaced and in sweats, eager to ditch differentiation for the rest of the afternoon—and sat in her car as she cried about her latest relationship trouble. We drove to a boba place nearby where I cheered her up with anecdotes and inside jokes from forever ago.
Some of you might think I allowed myself to be taken advantage of, and I honestly think that’s a normal knee-jerk response. Once my friend had come to her senses, she actually asked me if I harbored any ill feelings toward her for contacting me out of the blue just because she needed someone. The answer came without the slightest hint of hesitation, and I meant every single word: no, not at all. We could go without speaking for months, but if she rang me to ask if we could meet at our favorite restaurant, I’d show up, remember her order, and let our conversation pick up exactly where it left off.
I’ve always taken pride in being low maintenance since I believe that it’s the quality and not the quantity of my interactions with someone which serves as the foundation of our friendship. Anyone who thinks otherwise needs to do a bit of growing up. I’m aware that the people in my life have priorities of their own that keep them from constantly texting or calling, and I expect them to understand that it’s the same case for me. That doesn’t mean our relationship diminishes in importance: we love and know each other enough to believe that we’ll reach out once we have the time and energy to do so.
Well, that is, until COVID-19 happened.
I was initially alright with being quarantined. Though the fear of possibly contracting this life-threatening virus and infecting my loved ones loomed over my head, I was able to find ways to keep myself sane indoors. I wrote a lot, redecorated my room, and took up online classes. But no matter how much I got done on my own, I couldn’t deny the fact that I missed my friends terribly and I wanted to know how they were. Before the pandemic hit, I had a general idea of what they were up to based on their tweets or Instagram stories, and could confirm they were indeed alive as I caught a glimpse of them in my school hallways. But now that they’re stuck at home with nothing to do, the only thing I’m getting from them is pure radio silence.
I’ve noticed that in the absence of face-to-face interaction, we find ourselves repeatedly assessing our position in the lives of those we hold dear to us, and how they could change now that we’re away from them indefinitely. After all, the saying “out of sight, out of mind” exists for a reason. We find ourselves longing for constant emotional support while simultaneously refusing to ask for it first—because not only does that defeat the entire purpose of seeking reassurance, but it also makes you seem like you lack the security and stability needed to stand on your own feet. God forbid we look like we need someone more than they need us!
It’s this observation that led me to believe that if I don’t turn into a better replier/chat initiator/general social media user, I run the risk of losing some of my most treasured friends. Of course, I trust them enough to not cut ties with me over something as petty as social media presence amidst a pandemic. But maybe I miss out on the precious opportunity to strengthen my bond with them during what may be a tough time because I’m M.I.A. when I’m needed the most.
I became low maintenance because I believe that everyone needs personal space to a certain degree, an opinion born out of my being both an only child and an introvert. People will hit me up if they want to, and if they don’t, they’re probably busy or simply not in the mood to talk. Unfortunately, in the process, I accidentally turned into a “no-maintenance” person. I was always waiting to be contacted or spoken to first, giving off the impression that I’m neglecting those around me and acting like an indifferent sociopath. In reality, I just want us to be able to talk at a time when both of us are ready and free. I’d hate to look like I have too much pride and too little concern when I actually feel and love very deeply. I simply don’t want to be too much for a person that they make the active choice to not reciprocate. But it would be stupid if I allowed this fear to get in the way of communication, an integral component in both platonic and romantic relationships.
I recently ditched my nightly routine of watching two to three movies and tried to integrate contacting my closest confidants into my daily schedule. I’ve been trying lots of methods: back-and-forth meme-tagging, Netflix Parties, and late-night heart-to-heart talks (my favorite, so far). My first attempt was a call with a friend in which we complained about how much we miss the outside world. The whole time, my internal monologue was just saying, “Damn, why haven’t I been doing this more often?”
Now that we’re in the middle of a health crisis that’s affecting the entire world, human connection has turned into a basic necessity. Don’t be afraid to ring a friend and ask them if they’ve been feeling like themselves lately, send them a meme that only the two of you will laugh at, or even make dinner plans for a date in the distant future. Everybody is either profoundly sad about the state of the world or inconvenienced by the sudden and unexpected turn of events right now. We could definitely use a reminder that despite the turbulence and uncertainty of our current situation, there’s still someone looking out for us.
By Angel Martinez
Illustration by Chloe Taal