Alone & Living In a Pandemic World: A Dr ...

Alone & Living In a Pandemic World: A Drifter’s Hold on Mental Health

Dec 20, 2021

Drifter, vagabond, nomad, rambler, and the list goes on. People living as I am are called many things. I lay claim to no particular moniker, despite the title of this post, and am generally fine with however people see fit to describe me. I keep my mind on more important things, like trying to live a life of meaning, doing my best to help others, and keeping my sanity.

When I’m on the road and driving to wherever my next adventure may be, I like to scan radios stations and find cool music to listen to as I drive. The soundtrack of my life is made up of nearly every style of music you can imagine. Rock, country, rap, metal, folk, world music – all of these and more. Recently, I landed on a classic rock station that was playing the old 80s tune by Ozzy Osborne and Lita Ford called, “Close My Eyes Forever.” I hear the song frequently in my travels, and it never fails to take me back to my younger days and all of the friends I had back then.

The chorus of the song has these lines:

“If I close my eyes forever, will it all remain unchanged? If I close my eyes forever, will it all remain the same?”

That part always hits me hard, and while things didn’t remain unchanged, I can close my eyes and go back in time to see my friends and the good times we had. Say what you will about the 80s, but they were an absolute blast. I’m told I’m a part of Generation X, also known as the forgotten generation. We grew up in the shadow of the Boomers, and were followed by the Millennials, my generation kind of being skipped over like a flyover state.

Of course, there are many people from my generation who have done well in life, just like in every generation, but I do feel the impact of those words, “the forgotten generation.” When I was younger, my friends and I were mostly happy, optimistic, and knew we’d do great things. Some did just that but a few my friends didn’t make it this far. We were pretty wild back then, and some of the old gang never stopped and paid the ultimate price. Others fell to different circumstances, like my best friend who was murdered in Lansing, Michigan back in the 90s. Killed for the money in his wallet and the boots on his feet.

I share all of that backstory for a reason. We’re living in strange times, and maintaining sound mental health is even more a challenge than it was in the near past. Hearing the old Ozzy and Lita song got me thinking of people I use to know well and loved. Some are now dead, and some have given up, and others are still out there giving life all they have to give. I’m in the latter group and part of what keeps me motivated is that I want to live a full life that’s filled with love, fun, and adventures – and one reason for doing so is my way of paying tribute to the friends of my youth. I recognize the gift of still being alive, and I’m not going to waste it.

Thinking of my old friends brings on other thoughts and feelings. You see, these days I have no permanent address or place to live. That’s by choice so I’m not complaining, but I do experience feelings of intense loneliness at times. I love spending time alone, but I really miss having a core group of friends like I did years ago. I’d also like to experience a loving relationship again. And now, there’s a global pandemic and that certainly complicates things a bit. I spend 99% of my time alone, and that’s fine up until the moments it isn’t.

Of course, I’m not the only one experiencing these feelings. In my travels across the United States, as well as in my own home state of Kentucky, I’ve talked to many people who are struggling. The stress and anxiety that comes from a lack of real human connection is off the charts. Even those who typically don’t struggle with such things are having a tough year.

So, what do you do? Assuming you want to take certain precautions so you don’t get sick, or make others sick, the options are limited. But, there are four things that I’ve found to help me keep it together. Maybe they’ll help you too.


Have you ever read statistics regarding people who die after they retire? I don’t recall exact numbers, but it’s more than you may think. Why is that? Did they suddenly experience major health issues? Die in freak accidents? Nope. The reason many people don’t live long after retiring is because they feel they no longer have a purpose. After spending decades pouring their lives into a career, it all comes to an abrupt halt.

There’s a lesson here. If you don’t find something to be passionate about, something that’s meaningful to you that’s outside of your career, when the career stops so will your sense of purpose. I’ve had several jobs in my life, and haven’t followed a particular career path, but I do have a mission in life that didn’t change when my job did. My mission is to encourage, love, and lift up others. I do that through personal interactions, sometimes through one-on-one coaching, but primarily through my writing. Currently, writing is the only thing I do, but if I were to get a job somewhere, my purpose is unaffected.

Find something like that for you. It might be a charitable cause, spiritual service, art, music, or a new business. It doesn’t really matter what it is, so long as you find it meaningful and fulfilling. Purpose alone will go a long way toward maintaining good mental health. Here’s a key takeaway: It almost always involves helping and serving others in some capacity.

Reach Out

While there’s no substitute for face-to-face human contact, you can still reach out and communicate to others. I know, I know. I’m sick of everything being “virtual” too, but it’s better than having zero contact with others. I’m on the move a lot, and there are days I’ll wake up in one state, and go to sleep in another. That doesn’t leave a lot of time for face-to-face connections, and there are days I talk to no one at all. It’s easy to sink into a funk or get depressed when you have no contact with others. Even if you’re a loner like me, you still need others. We’re all hardwired that way. Make a call to a friend or family member. Get on Zoom and do a face-to face. Whatever and however you do it, just reach out to other people on a regular basis. It helps, I promise.


There are times when it feels like a bad time will never end. But look back on your life, and you’ll see that every unpleasant thing you’ve been through came to an end at some point. Perhaps not as quickly as you’d have liked, but it did end. If you’re lonely or hope to be in an intimate relationship again, it’s still possible. It’s possible now, and it’ll be possible later. I remind myself of this pretty often.

Maybe you’re broke, undecided, or have no idea how things are going to work out. Slow down, take a deep breath, and believe that it’s going to be okay. No matter what, you’ll be fine. Yeah I know, that’s easy to say and not so easy to do – especially in the heat of the moment – but with practice it becomes more natural. I promise.

Hope isn’t wishing for something you know will never happen. It’s a solid belief that it will happen, even if it looks a little different than you originally thought.

Build Your Mindset

I almost didn’t use the word “mindset” because it’s used so often that I was concerned the depth of its meaning would get lost. But, it’s really the best word I know of to describe what I’m talking about. Simply put, mindset is a program you create for your mind to run on.

It’s incredible that we have the ability to create new and improved patterns of thought, and when these patterns have been in place for a while they become your mindset. This is how you process all incoming information that comes from your experiences, circumstances, and actions.

Here’s the thing: If you don’t intentionally create your mindset, your brain will design its own. The issue with your brain designing its own thought patterns is that it will use fear and constant threat assessment as its guiding principle. Fear isn’t unnatural, but allowing it to rule your life is.

Carol Dweck, an American psychologist, identified two primary mindsets.

Fixed Mindset.
Growth Mindset.

A fixed mindset is exactly what it sounds like. If this is you, you don’t believe you can change. Any talents or skills you weren’t born with are forever out of reach. Your life “is what it is” and you’re pretty much stuck with it.

A growth mindset is the opposite. If this is you, you know the qualities you were dealt at birth are only a staring point. You know that your talents, intelligence, and skills can all be improved and expanded with time and action.

I encourage you to dig deeper into this and find out how to create a mindset that gives you a rich, fulfilling life. If you want it, and are willing to change, it’s all there.

These are a few things that work for me. We’re all different so you may have to add, subtract, or tweak these thing to fit your own life. The key takeaway of this post is that there are things you can do, you’re not alone, and life is still worth living.

As always, reach out to me if you have questions or if I can help you in some way.


Enjoy this post?

Buy Keith E. Smith a coffee

More from Keith E. Smith