I’ve realized that the world does not have much to say in the way of concrete life advice: There are no Instagram posts that tell you exactly what to do with your academics or a TikTok that tells you exactly where your career should go. But I’ve also realized that when it comes to relationships or love, the world has almost too much to say. And yet, it’s all wrong.
The world likes to tuck love and relationships into neat little boxes: when you should hold on, when you should let go, when you should plant your feet and when you should walk away. This oversimplification makes it seem easy, and for the majority of my life, I bought into this outlook. But COVID-19 dumped the content of these boxes out on the floor and left them a mess. I am left realizing that many of our relationships now fall into all of these categories at once.
This is because the pandemic has left all of my relationships in a complete standstill. This can be perceived as either a good thing and a bad thing: On one hand, I’ve had plenty of time to work on my relationships with others, and I’ve learned the importance of communication and creativity to keep relationships alive. Since going to the movies or out to a party is no longer an option, I’ve become more dependent on the conversations I have with others. In the process, all of my “surface-level” relationships have dwindled, allowing me to place higher value on the moments I spend with my closest friends and family.
But our relationships — both platonic and romantic — have likely changed dramatically throughout the pandemic. In a world that feels so out of control, it’s natural to cling to the things, people and feelings we know. As we cope with the difficulty of living entirely virtual lives, this makes it hard to hold on, yet even harder to let go.
Honestly, the pandemic has left me torn and conflicted more than anything. I find myself stuck between two outcomes: trying to reach out to others because the pandemic makes me feel isolated and lonely or pushing people away because it’s so draining to maintain connections. This especially applies to romantic relationships, in which familiarity becomes a source of comfort in a world that feels so suffocating and unbearable. Losing a close friend or romantic partner would be unbearable to face alone and 6 feet apart.
The truth is, I do not have a remedy for this internal war. But I do have a piece of advice: Sometimes, letting go is necessary, regardless of the consequences. And, in the process and the hurt that comes along with it, we may be improving the most important relationship of our lives — the one we have with ourselves.