Isolation is much louder than I anticipated. I thought loneliness would be quiet, but it isn’t. The construction site down the street is alive with hammering. The children across the street talk and shout and laugh. A dog barks as he walks past my house. Even my own thoughts are louder when I’m alone. And I’ve been alone a lot recently.
I dreamed that isolation would be like space. Silent and cold. “Space is disease and danger wrapped in darkness and silence.” Oh, Bones. That’s life on Earth right now.
From my earliest memories, Star Trek provided me with tools and role models that have helped me throughout life. Sometimes I find myself walking with a captain’s swagger. I enjoy the art of diplomacy and logic. If adventure calls, I answer. I love the idea that on the Enterprise, no one is alone. But what about me on this lonely planet down below?
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) suggests that stress and anxiety are normal reactions to being isolated, but we can and should take care of ourselves. That means that we need to understand the risks of social isolation and find ways to stay engaged with others even when we are physically apart.
First, we need to pay attention to our bodies. Are you tired or fatigued? Does your chest hurt? Are there changes in your sleep or eating habits? Call a doctor no matter what your symptoms might be. Your physical health is important.
Second, we should focus on how our minds are reacting to the isolation. Can you recognize the signs and symptoms for depression, anxiety, and stress? It is okay to get help when you need it. Psych Hub is a resource to help define the mental health conditions we might experience and how to get support.
But, when I still need help when I feel isolated from the world, I find myself looking to the stars.
Make Your Living Space Enjoyable
Rishon and Kevin Uxbridge are mysterious inhabitants on an isolated planet in The Next Generation’s “The Survivors.” Even though there is a tragic explanation for why they are alone, they live nice house with good tea. Around their home is a lush green lawn. Inside is clean and beautifully decorated. Rishon shows Data a music box. Not only does it play a tune, but it also links her back to past generations.
I’ve been spending a lot of time in my office recently. For years, I’ve had an artistic schematic of the original Enterprise next to my desk. I didn’t want to ruin it by taking it out of its protective wrap, but a few weeks ago, I unveiled it and hung it on my wall. It makes my little work space much happier. Clearing my desk and adding a few pictures help me feel connected to the things I love.
The Needs of the Many Outweigh the Needs of the One
Kirk finds himself beamed onto an empty ship in The Original Series “Mark of Gideon.” He wants to know what happened to his crew. He doesn’t like being alone. Eventually, he meets Odona who loves the isolation. She spins and twirls like a child set free in an open field. It’s an episode about a lot of big issues including herd immunity, longevity, the price of utopias, reproductive rights, and Spock rejecting both diplomatic and bureaucratic pressures. Though it’s not an episode that’s often mentioned, I watched it recently in a new light. “Mark of Gideon” is about revolution!
Consider the reasons for our isolation. There might be many different reasons. For me, it is the good of the many. It makes it easier to isolate thinking of the larger cause. If there are other reasons for your isolation, how can you make connections? How can you be like Odona? She reveled in the chance to be alone. I might not be baking bread or writing the next great novel, but I am looking at myself in a new positive way. I’ve changed some of my old habits. I’ve changed my hair. I’m exercising with my new found time. The critical eye on myself has become less critical. I’m more willing to allow myself the grace to feel comfortable in my skin.
The Good and Bad of the Borg
The Borg stay connected. Literally. They are never alone. I see the multiple screens and monitors on my desk and feel like I’m at the helm of my own spaceship. Each bit of news, each website, each social media post, and each video conference connects me back to the human collective. There are positives and negatives for being a Borg. Am I watching too much news? Then I watch less. I don’t consume media all day. Once or twice a day is better for me. I control my consumption of information because too much makes me feel alone. I am enslaved by the technology some days. Other days I’m thankful for it. Am I a human or am I machine? Can I have the best of both worlds?
I try to unplug. I haven’t printed documents in ages, but now I do it so I can move away from the screens and focus on my work without interruption. I choose a different vantage point. The Borg can’t do that, but I can. I actively find ways to vary my work and leisure hours. Resistance isn’t futile. It’s inevitable.
A Vulcan and Klingon Lovechild
I use Star Trek to help me get through my periods of isolation. I’ve been doing this my whole life. I spent much of my childhood alone with my closest friends on the final frontier. I have a favorite episode for every mood and every malady. I call it my Star Trek Rx. In The Next Generation episode “The Bonding,” Picard says, “No one is alone on the Starship Enterprise. No one.” So even if we’ve never met, I have been, and always shall be, your friend.
Nicki Salcedo (she/her) works in the corporate world by day and writes at night. Star Trek was her first friend. Find her on twitter @NickiSalcedo.