Dear Wayne and Wanda,
I could really use some advice. My ex-husband and I grew apart over time, and in 2019 we divorced. Afterward, I acted rather impulsively on a lifelong dream to live in Alaska, sold most of my belongings, and moved here. I’ve been in Anchorage now since last Christmas. I had just started a new job when the pandemic began and they had us all go remote, and I’ve been working from my condo since then.
I shouldn’t complain because I have my job and I have my health, but this year has been simply miserable for me. I don’t have any family here, and I don’t really have friends either. I had barely gotten to know my co-workers when our workplace shut down. They’re basically just faces on the other end of a teleconference now and then. I am dying to start dating again, but how do I do that with COVID? How do I make friends? How do I have any kind of social life?
The fact is, I’m beyond bored — I’m sad, I miss companionship. Normally I’m super social and extroverted — so much that I wasn’t at all worried about moving to a new place knowing no one. I knew I’d make friends here! But with the pandemic in play, and everything locked down, I just don’t know what to do. I’m a rule follower, through and through, so I’m never going to be that girl who’s not following public health advisements and mandates. Is there a balance?
One mental trap laid by this crafty COVID-19 craziness is that we often are struggling with how to get back to normal when instead we should focus our energy on creating a new normal. For example, we wrestle with how to hang out with friends as we once did, how to meet up with potential romantic partners for dates, or how to salvage trips or events we’d planned before COVID-19 sank in.
I challenge you to pull up from trying to replicate what once was, and instead, reinvent and reimagine what a healthy social life looks like. It’s understandable that making new friends is tough right now, so try reconnecting with old ones. The general public’s newfound comfort level with videoconferencing technology creates new opportunities to reach out beyond state lines to family and friends far and wide.
Those close college pals you haven’t seen all at once for years? Your best besties from high school? Give them a shout! They’re probably as bored as you, and if you’re as social as you claim to be, that ideally positions you to instigate some virtual group meet-ups that no one would really have thought to do regularly pre-2020. Fill some of your down time by playing unofficial moderator at these meetings, coming prepared with ice-breaker type questions to smooth out any initial awkwardness, and the conversations will be rolling in no time!
You asked about finding balance, and Anchorage’s wintertime outdoors provide ample area for practicing balance — for example, while strapped into cross-country skis or ice skates, or simply navigating a snowy walk on the woodsy trail system. You’ll find both physical and mental comfort in these outdoor spaces thanks to getting some exercise, admiring the beauty, and also the simply being adjacent to other adventurous types. You may not necessarily talk to folks, or make friends, but just being in the fresh air around other people should provide you with a bit of a boost.
Despite all the challenges and changes, there are ways to follow the rules while safely growing your Alaska social circle and dating pool during a pandemic.
As a new employee working remotely, that’s just terrible timing — you can meet people and learn about your new home through work. But why not suggest a weekly virtual “happy hour” or “social hour” after work with your co-workers? You can all crack a favorite drink, loosen up and not talk about work, but instead focus on interests and backgrounds, families and dating, pets and restaurants, whatever. If that works, and they aren’t totally crazy, maybe a safely spaced bonfire gathering is in the works down the road.
Wanda’s point about getting outside is great, and it’s also an excellent way to meet people while earning your Alaska stripes. Sign up for adult cross-country skiing lessons. It’s low-pressure fun with people who are also struggling and succeeding at a new skill, which definitely encourages shared laughs, cheers and conversations while maintaining safe distance.
As for dating, sure that’s a little tougher. But you can still maintain a presence on your favored online dating sites, right? Sure, you can’t meet up with someone for a traditional first date at a nice restaurant, dive bar or concert, but you can certainly see who’s out there, start up some communications, and even get flirty and plan an outdoor date. I’d suggest one that allows you to show off your new skate-skiing skills and includes two folding chairs and a cooler with a few beers so you’re ready for some post-ski carb-loading and conversation.