This lockdown has been tremendously tough on everyone. Personally, the rigid regulations in Toronto have awakened different feelings in me. After the novelty of the first lockdown wore off — whipped coffee and endless Netflix binges — I found myself feeling lonelier than usual.
While I was surrounded by my loving family, I longed for the friendly, teasing laughter of my high school friends. I was also isolated from the social spheres of my work and U of T. Being stuck in my room and confined by the four walls of my house, I felt eager for social contact.
Despite the countless FaceTime sessions, I ended up downloading Tinder — and other dating apps — to seek some excitement in the comfortable routine of my days at home. Because of the increased time spent in isolation, I began to blur the lines between relationship and friendship. In other words, I was obsessively checking to see if there was a ‘match.’
As I excessively swiped and imagined numerous romantic possibilities, I realized that these addictive habits sometimes put me in a toxic mindset — scrolling through dating apps became an all-consuming distraction.
Eventually, I deleted the app. As someone who tends to over romanticize things, this helped me avoid unnecessary emotional labour. Strangely, for the first time in what felt like forever, I finally found more time to be alone with my thoughts — not necessarily in a bad way. Usually, the distractions of work and commuting served as good excuses to ignore my individuality, my personality.
I realized that if there is ever a good time to be single, it’s probably now. We are in a lockdown that feels neverending, which in turn grants us the time to develop ourselves rather than daydream about a potential ‘someone.’ The fixed mindset of wanting to be in a relationship obscured the importance of my own individuality and personal growth.
Personal development has looked like reconnecting with my old artistic hobbies, including reading and writing poetry. I also picked up my flute for the first time in a long time and was very excited about practising again! As musical notes smoothly danced around my room, I felt reconnected to past memories and former aspirations.
Focusing on myself has also involved reconnecting with my family. I know this sounds cliché, but I often took their presence for granted because of the monotonous rhythm of daily life.
In addition, focusing on my individuality has included navigating the metaphorical diasporic mess I find myself in. As an Italian-born West African, I have not always been able to clearly define my identity.
Throughout the lockdown, I have taken the time to learn my mother’s Ivorian dialect, Baoulé. I have also come to appreciate that learning my native dialect is an inherent process of decolonization, given that my first language is French. This has also helped me decolonize my understanding of self in the West African diaspora in other ways.
To further ground me in my cultural heritage, I have also been exploring West African methods of storytelling. I have always been attracted to story-based narratives, so this has been a rewarding way of working on my own individual story as a West African in Canada.
All in all, I do not think I could have accomplished any of the above without deleting my trio of dating apps. Reconnecting with myself has granted me the valuable possibility of cultivating my individuality, without the prospects of a relationship on my homescreen.