The past year has been a lonely year for many people, but it has also been in year when it can be hard to find some time alone. For those who, like me, share a (small) living space it has been a year of constantly being in someone else’s presence.

Normally, I would be used to spending quite some time on my own. First as a student and later as a self-funded researcher, I work a lot from home, sometimes from the library, and I combine household chores with the liberty of doing my academic work when it fits me. However, since March my husband has been working mostly from home, only visiting his office when he really needs to. We have an apartment with two rooms: a large living area and a small and cold bedroom. So working in a separate office is not really an option. We have put a small desk in the bedroom, for when videocalls clash, but it’s not optimal.

Well, the difficulties of working at home will be known to many people by now, but what I’m bumping into at the moment is that, even though I long for some me time, I also really need to get used to spending time by myself again as well. When my husband is out of the house for the evening my first reflex has become to ask one of my friends to come over. After all, we’re not used to being able to spend time alone in my house anymore, so I try to take the opportunity.

Sometimes no one is coming over and I have the whole evening to myself and that has become a weird experience. Don’t get me wrong, I like being by myself. I like the silence and not having to reckon with anybody. It’s better for my creativity as well – and know I’m less creative in company. It’s all very A Room of One’s Own. But because of that, and in the current situation, I feel like I might put a bit too much pressure on those evenings to myself. I feel like it’s an opportunity to do a hundred things – reply to letters, write articles, do some solid reading, paint, sing, etc., and if it’s not a very productive night, I have done something wrong. Which of course only works against me, because this pressure causes a blockade and then I’m in bed by 11 o’clock after an evening of watching tv.

And it’s logical that I don’t get anything done on those evenings because probably my brain is doing exactly what it needs to do – enjoy the time alone. Relaxing on another level because there’s nobody else to take into account. Apparently it’s what I need.

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