“The Phantom of the Opera” has never been a musical that I pull inspiration from. But, in these strange and uncertain times of living through a global pandemic, I find myself doing just that and humming to “Learn to be Lonely,” a song from its 2004 film adaptation soundtrack.
Child of the Wilderness,
Born into emptiness,
Learn to be lonely ,
Learn to find your way in darkness.
I was never originally a fan of the song, but now it is the song of my soul. The lyrics tug at my heartstrings for the simple fact that I have never felt more alone than I have this year. Which is weird for me. I love being alone. I love the stillness and quiet that comes when sitting with my own mind. Being alone, pre-pandemic, was one of my favorite pastimes.
But this year is different, and this type of loneliness is different. There is no comfort in this new loneliness. However, I technically am not alone. I, like many people this year, moved back home with my parents during the beginning of the pandemic. Even though I am in a home with others, there is an invisible barrier between us. We all exist in our own bubble, operating separately in our own worlds, in our own times. No hugs or kisses, no family dinners. Separate, but together. For good reason, no one wants to be the cause of another catching COVID-19, but such a commitment does not offset one’s feelings of being alone.
As we enter into the holiday season, the feelings of loneliness have only heightened. This time of year is usually spent with family and friends: eating, drinking, shopping, celebrating. But with the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases rising higher everyday and hospitals running out of bed space, the question becomes what risk do you want to take? Do you go out into the world to try and cure this feeling or do you stay home? You want to be around your loved ones, but if you truly love them, staying away is the greatest expression of that adoration.
I choose the latter.
The holiday season is usually a major event in my life , specifically on my mother’s side of the family. My grandmother made my mom and her nine other siblings promise to keep the family together after she died. So spending the holidays together became how my mother’s family decided to honor my grandmother’s wishes. Now, every year, my cousin , aunts and uncles make the trek from wherever they reside and travel back to one of my aunt’s homes in Mississippi.
The holidays have always given me a warm feeling inside. It’s like being wrapped in the arms of your loved ones. But not this year. This year, the holiday feels as cold as the weather outside— a frigid wind breaking through your coat and soaking into your bones type of cold. It’s hard knowing that I will not get to see my extended family for Christmas. I miss being around my friends and family. I miss being able to hug them without the threat of passing a deadly virus. I miss seeing their smiles not behind a mask. As humans, we all want to be around each other.
Toward the end of the song “Learn to be Lonely” the lyrics read,
So laugh in your loneliness,
Child of the wilderness,
Learn to be lonely,
Learn how to love life that is lived alone,
Learn to be lonely,
Life can be lived, life can be loved alone.
In this part of the song I find words of encouragement. The words seem sad, but it leads me to believe that you can find happiness in sadness. You can still be connected when you are alone during the holidays. You just have to learn this new loneliness.
This new loneliness is one we must grow comfortable with. The pandemic is not over. Even with the eventual vaccine, we still have months before we can go back to some relative form of normalcy. We have to look for the little things that make us smile: watching a funny video, playing video games or Facetiming with friends. In those moments, the sadness of being alone melts away and you feel connected. You can forget the things and people you miss. And although those moments may be fleeting, it’s the most that we can have for now. So like the song says, learn to be lonely, life can be lived, life can be loved alone.