Quarantine has been a time of introspection for not only the nation, but for individuals as well. Many people have had dramatic changes in their routine over the course of quarantine that otherwise wouldn’t have occurred. My roommate and I approached quarantine in the exact opposite way. He is a complete introvert, spending his days playing video games online, watching tv shows, and cooking. On my side of the fence, I’m a complete extrovert. I love going to parties, meeting new people, going out often. When the pandemic began in April, I found that he was doing much better off than I was because his tendencies were rewarded where as mine were shut down. Despite the first couple of months being full of anguish, I eventually adapted and live comfortable as a slightly more introverted extrovert.
I remember initially feeling so lifeless when the pandemic occurred. If you’re at all like me, you get your energy from other people. You feel the most alive surrounded by other people. I always feels like the light switch in my head goes off when I’m around friends. Not that I can’t accomplish things by myself or I shut down completely when others aren’t around, but I definitely feel i’m at my best when I have a crowd. When quarantine took all of that away, I felt incredibly lonely, empty even. My main revenue for happiness had been robbed from me and I scrambled to find a substitute in its absence.
The route I took was one that I felt a lot of people took – I reached out to many people on social media platforms. While this did fill the void, a lot of the conversations fizzled out and, let’s face it, talking online just isn’t the same. The high of being around people in real life simply doesn’t compare to anything virtual.
My job had laid me off, forcing me to move back to my parent’s house because I couldn’t afford rent anymore. Now my circle of people was cut even shorter. I was now limited to my parents and siblings. As much as I love them and like speaking with them, the stark contrast between interacting with dozens of college students a day to only the same 4 people every day was dramatic.
For many introverts, this situation might not seem that bad, but for an extrovert, it really felt like I was put into social prison. I mentioned earlier how I scrambled to fill the void, but at this point it was more than a scramble – it was a frenzy. I tried once again to go down the social media route, but that was short lived. I tried to play video games online with friends, but I had outgrown playing for extensive periods of time so this didn’t help.
I thought about what to do for a long time. After a while, my mindset was more geared to the psychological and philosophical side of troubleshooting what it was what I was feeling. Why do I need others so much? Can I achieve true happiness on my own? What makes me happy besides people? The last question in particular served as the inciting incident for what would later become a kind of “awakening.” For a long time I considered what really did make me happy besides activities involving people. All of the hobbies I do enjoy – running, cinema, painting, music – all seem better when there’s people around.
In this way, I came to two solutions in my mind. One – flesh out the hobbies I know I enjoy with people by myself. This means running by myself, making videos by myself, and painting all alone. Usually I would have some kind of podcast playing in the background in attempt to simulate a conversation happening around me, but eventually I grew out of this the more independent I became. Two – develop hobbies that did not require other people. This second option I found to be more fun because it got me out of my comfort zone. I’ve never considered myself talented in the culinary arts, and I most definitely never considered myself an avid reader, but I picked both of these skills up. I would learn how to cook a new recipe every single day and I would read for an hour or two before bed every single night. It was such a radical shift from the lifestyle I had developed for myself in the first 21 years of my existence. It took some getting used to, but after a while I actually really got into the groove of everything.
I would start each morning with a 3 mile walk, cook some new recipe for dinner, run 7 miles in the evening, then paint, then read. I did all of this alone, whereas usually I would want someone by my side. I grew to enjoy the alone time. A lot. I now felt like I had a lot of time to let my thoughts fester and bloom. I felt more creative, more inspired, more thoughtful, sharper. On top of that I was losing weight too! I managed to lose 35 pounds and I honestly have quarantine to thank. If I didn’t get the chance to be alone and think deeply about where I was at, I would have stayed content where I was at.
I managed to achieve true happiness all on my own and I genuinely understand the appeal of being an introvert now. I think it provides a great opportunity for the self to grow and more breathing room to interpret the world around you as opposed to always having spunky in your face. It’s calmer, quieter, and perhaps less exciting, but I will say that I feel more fulfilled than I ever had. It’s a state of mind that’s hard to commentate on, but I just feel this wave of calmness and self worth that I’m not sure I could say I have before. I relied too much on others to make me happy instead of finding that happiness in myself. For any extroverts out there looking to shake things up in quarantine – take some time for yourself, be an introvert. You’ll find the happiness that others gave you is in yourself. Find it.