When I first began driving on my own, nothing but the radio and a miscellany of thoughts would keep me company. Truthfully, as an introvert, alone time has always been a solace, a time where I can play with tangled mental messes or complex scenarios that seem intangible. 

I’d often pontificate my musings out loud as I drove, giving a sermon to the audience of dust bunnies on the dashboard. Those drives were truly some of the most formative times of my life this past year. During the whirlwind that was 2020, the rage of COVID-19 persisted outside of my little world, but I was safe within the four doors of my mom’s old Chevy Cobalt with nothing but the smell of the rain wafting inside. 

Eventually, enough time alone forces introspection. Despite the negatives that came with the onset of COVID-19, the lockdown period granted me the opportunity to spend a lot of time with myself. Of course, lockdown experiences varied vastly, but continuous months of solitude were a welcome opportunity to slow down — something I’d been craving since I’d started university. 

Of the many circulating philosophies that permeated my way of thinking during these drives, touching on the concept of self-love inarguably contributed to the upsurge of my happiness. 

I can’t remember exactly when I fell in love with myself. I can’t remember the first time I stopped for a couple extra seconds to check myself out in the mirror, or the first time I genuinely thought “I’m well-read on this topic” without being prompted. 

Early on, I remember equating self-love to a mundanity, something cliché that people often preached with naïvety. As a teenager, I hadn’t discovered the natural high that came with having genuine confidence. I hadn’t understood that loving yourself doesn’t have to be treacherous, fake, or destructive. 

It is through isolation that I’ve learned to have an unabashed appreciation for myself, the person I’ve always detested. Between my third full rewatch of How I Met Your Mother and the aforementioned long drives through the sleepy suburban streets of my hometown, I went from struggling to understand the mere concepts of self-love to a selfish lover. 

Though I don’t remember the impetus to begin, I remember falling deeper down the rabbit hole of self-appreciation that I spent so long trying to find the entrance to. 

I’m conscious of the fact that I’ve had a very fortunate lockdown experience, but I’ve found that I’m not the only one feeling more reflective. After catching up with many friends over the winter break, it became clear that this period of time has changed us all. Somewhere in the midst of lockdown activities, the time we spend with ourselves helps us fall in love. 

What I do remember is a particular turning point from one of my frequent lockdown drives. I’d been on the road for an hour or so, having fallen into a comfortable silence as the radio hummed, ornamenting my thoughts. I was relaxed, enjoying the soft chill of the air through a window just barely cracked open, just enough to feel something. 

The cornucopia of thoughts dangling in my mind began to take form like constellations, and I came to the realization that I’d often accuse my romantic partners of seeing me through a rose-coloured lens. Granted, that was part of their job description, but it was a claim that was undoubtedly rooted in my self-perception. 

I was never particularly good at receiving praise about myself, nor could I fathom the idea that others appreciated me simply for who I was: a Wikipedia-article-perusing, straightforward, nerdy STEM major with a racing mind to match. 

I began to think about what it was that made these people love me, and I very quickly concluded that once you start making an active effort to see yourself through the lens of a lover, your whole world changes. Meditative moments akin to those found in lockdown frequent your mind more often, and your little world, though vaster than you may think, finally feels peaceful. 

What exactly was my process throughout all of this, then? For one thing, I’ve used those long drives to quell my anxiety and process my thoughts. Taking a moment to step back from the world allows you to view yourself as an outsider looking in, a lens that undoubtedly aids in growth. In a situation where social interaction is limited, you realize that the only consistency in your life is you. 

Why wouldn’t you appreciate yourself? You see, the more you let go, the more you realize that the joy never stops. The freedom never stops. And when you relish in those moments, that newborn feeling can happen more than once in a lifetime. A love like this isn’t treacherous. It’s warm, and it heals. After all, isn’t that something we all need in a time like this?