I am, and always have been, a textbook extrovert. I love going out and spending time with my friends. At a party, 9 times out of 10 I will be the stranger that approaches you because I like your style. My life was motivated by social activities.
I’d even spend 4 hours at the gym so I could hang out with my gym buddies of which maybe only an hour and a half were actually spent working out. Needless to say, when the lockdown was implemented, it hit me like a ton of bricks.
For the first few weeks, I was fine. I still had my family around me, I could socialize with them. I’d message my friends every now and then on Messenger or Telegram. I worked out at home, because thanks to my coaches, I was still getting daily workout programs. I turned to Steam, purchasing Stardew Valley and Tekken. I spent hours on the game, and by hours I mean I’d start playing at 1 pm and finish at 8 am the next morning, take a nap, then do it all over again. I looked for people to play with (some people were interested but it never really happened). It was great. It kept me busy. Eventually, the lack of interaction with people took its toll. I started to get irritable, I was sleeping way more than usual, I couldn’t even bring myself to work out anymore.
Some time in July 2020, one of my college acquaintances who had responded to my invite to play Stardew Valley asked me to join her Discord server. My reply was, ‘What’s Discord?’.
I joined her server, not knowing really what to expect. I knew no one. Or so I thought. I was reacquainted with people I had worked with in college productions, and also introduced to others. I was invited to game nights where we’d play Jackbox for a couple of hours and just hang out. Some game nights would turn into getting to know you sessions where everyone would just talk about anything. Sometimes, we’d just hang out in voice channels doing absolutely nothing and just keeping each other company as someone was working, or playing a solo game. Sometimes we’d talk to each other from sunset until we’d hear birds chirping outside our windows. There have been times where we’ve fallen asleep while hanging out.
I’ve rediscovered my love for video games. When I just started streaming, they were some of my biggest supporters, always making sure to drop by the stream, drop a like, or a comment. They got me to play my first ever FPS which I’ve always stayed away from because it makes me dizzy. We have watch parties that have introduced me to films and series I would not have watched otherwise. We have heated debates about them that could last longer than the film itself and then we just end up laughing at how different our opinions are. The server is a safe space for me.
I’ve cried in multiple conversations I’ve had over Discord when we’ve talked about our fears, our feelings – sometimes I’ve cried over absolutely nothing. I’ve cried from laughing over inside jokes, or over memes we share. I don’t think I’ve really consistently spent as much time with anyone else, aside from my family, as I have with these people who I’ve maybe met once or twice in my life before the pandemic started. We bond over games, our lives, and our similar frustrations over being freelancers in the current situation.
Sometimes, I think to myself if I would be as mentally okay today if I was never introduced to my Discord family, and I honestly doubt it. It seems so insignificant to have company in the impossibly late hours, especially since these friends were night owls like me. But if I were left alone? I wonder how many times I would have spiraled into more frantic thoughts. How many times I would’ve just stayed in bed staring at the ceiling if it weren’t for the fact that I knew people were waiting for me to join the conversation.
In their company, we made plans for when it would be safer to meet up. The KBBQ dates we’d have, drinking sessions where we’d watch the sunrise all together instead of just seeing the daylight creep in from each other’s windows on a video call. I’m crying as I write this and I think it’s because I don’t think I could ever express the gratitude I have for the people that have kept me alive and feeling like myself through the mess that was 2020 and now, 2021.
If you asked me in 2019 if I would have ever thought that I’d get this emotional about online conversations, the answer would have been a definite no. So to be seated in front of my PC with snot running down my face shows me how you could find sanctuary and peace in the places you least expect.
The pandemic has hit us all differently. Some people have found comfort in baking, cooking, or working out until there’s nothing left to sweat out. Maybe you’ve found solace in learning about astrology, or watching Netflix as you sip wine and nibble on your chocolate bar and that’s totally fine. In the midst of all this madness, it’s okay to find something that offers you warmth and peace of mind and it’s totally deserved to actually take the time to enjoy those things.
I don’t spend as much time in the Discord servers now as I’ve found other ways to cope – like taking care of my puppy and slowly getting back into working out. But the late-night talks still happen, we still have watch parties and game nights. We still hear the early birds start to chirp through each other’s mics every now and then. We’ve all found comfort in each other’s company so it’s never difficult to find someone who’s willing to hang out with you in a voice channel when one of us needs it, and I can’t be more grateful that I found these people. It’s where I’ve found home.