Eating alone in Cleveland

I thought I knew a lot about myself, but this quarantine sure showed me up. My personality apparently only consists of getting drive-thru McDonald’s, window shopping, and going on vacation. All the fun hobbies I’ve cultivated — painting, sewing, crocheting, reading, even watching TV — have turned into prisoner activities that are more for passing time than enjoyment.

Unexpected rain and snow

This time last year I was in Cleveland, Ohio. I decided to go for a weekend getaway, as it was only about 2 hours away from Windsor. It was cold, rainy, and I was alone. As far as trips go, that was not a particularly memorable one, but I would give a lot right now to be able to experience that again in place of my current state of affairs where I can’t even go to a restaurant for a burger.

Largely empty shopping centre

I’d love to stop whining, but it’s hard when the one thing I thought I had down pat — being alone — is proven to be a hollow skill to have after weeks of social distancing. In the past three years, I’ve watched a lot of Korean dramas that talk about the value of community and how your life can turn around when you keep your heart warm and open to people. I thought I understood those lessons just fine, but it looks like experiential learning is what I needed for those ideas to hit home.

Solo brunch

To ~circle back~ to Cleveland, I recall doing a small experiment while I was there for two days. I challenged myself to not use my phone for social media, talking to my friends, or even reading while eating so I could truly taste the food. I’ve not said this to anybody until now, but it was really, really difficult. The food took so long to eat. The time passed so slowly, like water going down a blocked drain. And I was so aware of the absence of human interaction at my table.

For a majority of my life, I had eaten meals with my family. We don’t watch TV and we talk to each other over the dinner table. And then when I turned 18, I moved out. For the next seven years of my life, I ate most of my meals alone, in front of a laptop or my phone. That picture of a young person scrolling aimlessly while shoving food in their mouth is the quintessential image of modern-day loneliness, yet I spent years unaware of my isolation and general poor state of affairs.

Flower from a stranger child

That being said, now when I travel alone I continue to use my phone while I eat because what even is the point anymore. Going along with another young person stereotype, I’ve moved back home to mooch off my parents and I rarely eat alone. If I hadn’t done that, I wonder if I’d be going insane by now because being alone is a necessity rather than a choice. Thinking back to the Flora who did everything alone, I wonder if her meals would have tasted better if instead of a phone, she had a person.

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