Once social distancing becomes a thing of the past, I’ll miss the safe bubble of my home.
After nearly two months of social distancing orders in the United States, the tune of our country’s discourse has shifted from “stay at home” to “open up.” Many who are lucky not to have contracted the virus are sick with cabin fever. They’re restless and bored. They want to celebrate birthdays and graduations (not from a passing car parade). They crave normalcy — and haircuts.
But does everyone feel this way? No.
I, for one, am not yet ready to go back to the old normal! And the reason is not what you might think.
Sure, being able to go shopping and have a more normal social life are nice. But for me, quarantine has offered an unusual respite from meddling coworkers, frustrating traffic jams, and overcrowded calendars. In an unexpected twist, the pandemic has slowed down our daily rat race, and I’ve decided I want off the hamster wheel.
The Joy of Home
As an introverted single person currently confined to her apartment, I have fully embraced the shelter-in-place lifestyle. Over the past couple of months, I’ve eluded boredom while catching up on my TBR (to be read) book pile, binge watching “Love is Blind,” discovering new music, and knitting hats and booties for friends’ new babies.
This pandemic has solidified my personal joy in solitude; I can stay happily busy without ever crossing my door frame. In fact, my social calendar has exploded, given how swiftly every activity and organization has mobilized online!
It perplexes me when I hop online and see a friend pleading for an online happy hour, someone aggressively selling homemade masks, an influencer listing her favorite online games to pass the time, an acquaintance begging for human contact. And I wonder: How can our extroverted brethren feel so BORED? Why can’t they understand the beauty and enjoyment of peace and quiet?
In the time it takes me to choose a recipe for the evening, other people have somehow already baked their way through the internet’s sourdough recipes, posted four TikTok videos about it, and then complained how there is nothing left to do at home. But this isn’t a matter of indecision on my part — on the contrary, there are so many ways to entertain myself at home that I aim to dive into each one with purpose and joy, not hurry through a rainy day activity list.
As it turns out, I’m not alone in, ironically, enjoying my time stuck in an “introvert’s paradise.”
Of course, I understand that many people are desperate to reenter the world, reopen their businesses, and socialize again. I do miss regular meals with my parents and seeing my close friends. But once social distancing becomes a thing of the past, part of me will also miss the safe bubble of my home and the comfort of my surroundings where all my favorite things and the power of my imagination have provided weeks of content occupation.
FOMO No More
A forced stay-at-home order provides the perfect time to luxuriate in our pajama-clad introversion without guilt or fear of missing out. I’ll admit that pre-pandemic, a weekend with no plans whatsoever would have made me feel a little guilty. Although it was enjoyable and comfortable for me to hang around the house, I felt obligated to make more of an effort to socialize.
And even while content at home, I wasn’t immune to FOMO, which could cause a spiral of negative thoughts. What if I missed the night my friend picked the karaoke song that got the whole bar singing and dancing? Was I missing out on the best night ever? What if my peaceful Netflix binge prevented a meet-cute at my corner Starbucks? You know… the spiral.
Under quarantine, FOMO has disappeared. Who could imagine attending a party now that it might get you ticketed? By staying home, I’m being a good citizen and supporting my community — no guilt there! And I have zero FOMO because there’s nothing to miss.
However, now that Zoom game nights have transformed into real-life invitations to socially distant happy hours, I can already feel a confusing blend of emotions creeping back in. I know I should be excited to hang out with friends again, but the prospect of resuming my regular social life is surprisingly rife with mixed feelings. The resurgence of the first few post-quarantine social invitations has already brought with it the familiar FOMO feeling, along with anxiety at whether I’ve forgotten how to socialize, a bit of sadness that marks the end of guilt-free isolation, and, for good measure, honest-to-goodness medical fears about mixing households and possibly contracting the virus.
Quarantine provided freedom from FOMO, so I wouldn’t mind staying in my comfortable bubble a little longer.
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A Unique Pause
While in the thick of the pandemic, it’s easy to focus on the fear, inconvenience, and disappointment that the virus has brought into our lives. But I’ve also been thinking about how society will view the pandemic from a historical perspective, as a mere memory. I’ve heard some refer to this time as “The Great Pause,” and in some respects, thinking of quarantine in this way invites peace, not anxiety, for me.
When else will we ever have collective freedom from social obligation, from daily routine, from wearing pants? No matter how the virus has affected each of us personally, this time has provided a unique opportunity for reflection.
Part of this reflective period for me has meant sharing connections with different people. Even I, an introvert who enjoys solitude, have felt compelled to seek out people I typically wouldn’t. Maybe it’s because socializing is virtual and no one will offer the dreaded, “We should hang out sometime!” or maybe it’s just the lack of distraction from everyday busyness. But regardless of motive, I have found myself creating an online Cousins Club, Zooming with an old friend who moved out of the country, and calling my great aunts, none of which, unfortunately, I do with regularity under normal circumstances.
More than a couple friends have mentioned that exes and old flames are crawling out of the woodwork like termites. Sure, people are lonely, but I think all of this reaching out demonstrates something greater — a need for all of us to slow down and check in with people, skip the small talk, and help where we can. And as introverts, we tend to excel at these skills anyway because we generally care deeply for people, albeit at a social distance!
As long as most of us are still in pause mode, I plan to take full advantage of the quiet reflective time without the monotony of the rat race, fear of missing out, or shallowness of small talk. It’s like an extended recharge for my introvert batteries, so I’ll finally be ready to emerge once the country presses play.
And maybe once things get back to normal, I can take what I’ve learned during quarantine and find ways to make myself happier and healthier as an introvert.