It’s Okay to Just Exist Right Now

an introvert just exists right now

You do not have to write the next great American novel or get in the best shape of your life.

On Friday the 13th, I sat alone on my bathroom floor, wrapped in sheets and a comforter, chin perched on the toilet seat, puking my guts out. As an introvert who finds strength in solitude, I had sent my husband downstairs.

I’d tried for the past hour to calm my nausea, but finally, throwing in the towel, I messaged my coworkers: “Hey guys, I’m not feeling well, so I won’t be in today. Not coronavirus related! I think I have a stomach bug.”

Within minutes, I received a call from my supervisor, informing me that upper management had requested, out of an abundance of caution, that I stay home for two weeks — without pay (I’d used all my PTO in February on my honeymoon). 

I was disoriented and fighting back my nausea when all I could remark on was how I didn’t even have any symptoms of the virus. “This is unfortunate, and I’ll see if we can have you come back sooner, or maybe you can work from home,” my supervisor answered.

I hung up the phone, lost whatever bites of Eggo waffle that were still hanging in my stomach, and went to sleep. 

When I woke up, it was around 6 p.m., and life didn’t feel that different yet. I would have been home from work by now anyway. A few events that I was invited to that weekend were canceled, but I was happy.

As an introvert, I love it when things are canceled.

Nobody Wants to Be Told to Stay Home

The rest of the weekend was a rollercoaster of emotion. 

I was happy that my work was looking for ways to prevent the spread of Covid-19, but I was angry that a simple Google search proved the virus symptoms to be nothing like what I was experiencing. I also learned that the couple we’d eaten with the night before had gotten sick, so we determined it was food poisoning, and I ended up quickly recovering.

I was embarrassed that I’d needed to take a sick day. Maybe I should have stuck it out? On my drive to the office, if I’d needed to pull over on the freeway to heave, then so be it?

No, that’s not right.

Then there was my fear of not being needed: I felt undervalued and hurt that the choice to temporarily cut me as a teammate came so easily, and swiftly. I knew that everything I do could be done from home, but as no work-from-home policy had been built out, it made sense that we weren’t ready for that kind of decision.

I was wary of my finances taking a hit, but I had a bit saved up, and I knew friends that were going to be in much worse situations than me, so it felt selfish to worry. I checked my email religiously, waiting for the go-ahead to work from home.

The intense mixture of frustration and relief was not a new sensation for my anxious spirit, though I had more time to dissect it, and ultimately, I came out on the better side of it all.

I’m Doing My Part to Flatten the Curve

Social distancing is said to be the best way we can flatten the curve and prevent the virus from becoming unmanageable here in the United States, and elsewhere. I took the warnings we heard from other countries very seriously. “Stay home!” rung out across all my social media feeds.

So, I was thankful I wouldn’t have to go into an office with other people who may be asymptomatic carriers. For all I knew, I could be an asymptomatic carrier! My stomach bug proved nothing.

There are many people in my life who fall into the “at-risk” category. People that I want more time with here in this world, people that immediately came to mind when I learned what age ranges would be most affected by the virus.

But even so, even if I didn’t personally know or care for anyone at risk, there are still people out there who are older or are not in the best health that I could indirectly be affecting. If you’re reading this, I hope you can agree that this bizarre time can best be overcome if we all come together to focus on the greater good of others (by distancing ourselves, of course).

Introverts Find Energy in Social Distancing

Many people have been stumped at the determining factor between an introvert and an extrovert. We can all be shy at times and outgoing at others, right? 

The biggest difference between introverts and extroverts is their energy source! If you draw energy from being around other people, you’re probably an extrovert. If you feel replenished after spending time alone, you’re probably an introvert. Introversion and extroversion have nothing to do with how shy or outgoing you are — you can be an outgoing introvert, or even a shy extrovert.

(Here are some more signs you’re an introvert.)

I love being alone. When I’ve had a couple hours to myself, I feel more present, grounded, creative, and like I can be a more attentive friend. After just a few days in self-quarantine, I finally felt like I had the capacity to accomplish so many things that I had been putting off. Not major things, just little things that I usually don’t get to do.

What to Do With Your Extra Time

Here are just a few things that I’ve been able to do in my time at home, that I encourage you to try as well:

1. Reach out to family and friends.

You haven’t been “people-ing” at the office all day, so now you can direct some of that energy to the people you care about most. They’re cooped up just as much as you are, and a few texts back and forth (or dare I say, a phone call) could mean the world to them. Bonus: It’s low-obligation, because no one is going to ask you to hang out.

2. Do some spring cleaning.

Personally, I was fortunate enough to move to a new house just a month ago, so I still had plenty of boxes to sort through. But we all have that cabinet of pots and pans haphazardly shoved in, so stack those babies properly now! Look for clothes that don’t bring you joy, and donate them at a later date. Above all, don’t forget to disinfect literally everything.

3. Pick up an old hobby.

Practice something that will bring you peace and mindfulness. Put down your phone because you’ve already caught up on everything Instagram-related for the past three days, and you don’t really need to watch any more news. You’ll be updated on the big stuff, trust me. I personally have been practicing hand embroidery because it’s pretty, satisfying, it keeps my hands busy, and it helps me think clearly.

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Now Is the Time to Slow Down and Evaluate

Humanity as a whole is being forced to live life a little slower right now, and that’s as good a time as any to pause and think about what you’re doing with your life, if you’re happy with the direction you’re going, and if you feel secure in this time of crisis. 

We live in a society of major consumption and production. Right now, we are not being asked to consume, because things are closed! And we should not feel required to produce. You do not have to write the next great American novel (as some have suggested on social media) or get in the best shape of your life.

Read this carefully: It’s okay to just exist right now, and make it to the next day, and then the next.

Just breathe. It’s a time to make lists, listen to your body, go outside, and put your feet in the grass (if you can) and feel connected to the Earth. If you’re going to create, try creating some short term and long term goals. Maybe we can all come out on the other side of this stronger. I know it’s a little more nuanced than that, but maybe it’s just the optimism of an introvert being told to stay inside talking.

Update: A week into my quarantine, my work updated their sick-leave policies, which was truly a generous thing to do — and a beautiful outcome that I hope for from many companies this year.

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