Disclaimer: I’m going to say this once. Obviously, I am not happy about the coronavirus’s threat to public health or the economic toll it’s taking. I do not think the existence of this pandemic is good. Just so happens that social distancing and remote work suits me.
I am truly an introvert, and this whole coronavirus quarantine experience has allowed me to embrace that again. There’s something about everybody having to do it that gave me permission to enjoy being at home, not having to perform for strangers and acquaintances, not having to hustle every day and seek fulfillment in frantic activity and socializing, which I can only really enjoy in small doses. Coronavirus quarantine has taken away the worst parts of my day– stress about waking up on time, getting places on time, about how presentable I am, worrying I’m not prepared or didn’t do something I was supposed to, about whether I’m the right mood to deal with people, dealing with hundreds of strangers and acquaintances, feeling “off” in dealing with the people I do know, obligations that rob me of my time and peace– and hasn’t taken away anything I can’t do without for another month or two.
I like life being focused on home and family. It’s been really nice to have the primacy of my marriage affirmed by external events. (And, as a friend of mine pointed out, I’m lucky to be quarantined with a sexual partner 😉 ) I like cooking at home instead of going out. I was always this way as a kid. When given the choice, I just wanted to stay home. Over the years, I began to feel I should have more things to do in the world, and so I started filling up my time, and eventually I became so stressed and distracted that I forgot what it felt like at my center. I’ll always be weirdly grateful to the virus for clearing me the space to rest in my own nature.
I leave the house for max one outing a day, and that’s for a nice, socially distant walk or to go to the grocery store. (I wear a bandana now, which, by hiding my face, has shown me how draining it is for me to constantly make friendly expressions when outside to reassure everyone who walks past me.) I love how simple and quiet my life is right now. I feel more myself than I have in ages. I had been in a state of constant anxiety and agitation for years now. As a kid, I would get this way during the end of the semester and then come down over the ensuing break. Before my senior year of high school was the first time summer wasn’t long enough for me to unwind. The anxious buzzing would calm down with space and solitude, but it never fully stopped like it used to. For the last decade, I have been more and less stressed but never truly felt relaxed. It was so unrelenting that, when I spent a few nights in the hospital a couple years ago, and I remember feeling relieved and elated that I would have no responsibilities or expectations other than treatment while I was there.
Well, it might be finishing my PhD or the quarantine (or most likely both and). But whatever it is, I feel relaxed! I do not feel done with my period of unwinding, but (un)fortunately the world is colluding with me to give me the conditions I like for a while longer.
I feel a little more free with the quarantine contraints. I like feeling like I don’t have to be perfectly satisfied because my options are limited. I like feeling no pressure to make anything of the day. The constraints I hate are having to get up to an alarm and look presentable to go to a meeting. Having to perform. Having to “make the most of my opportunities.” Clearly, there’s a disconnect between what I consider “making the most of” my life and the life I actually like. Quarantine has reduced the pressure on me to perform for myself, and I’d like to quit performative busyness altogether. I want to create and embrace the conditions under which I actually thrive. Weirdly, coronavirus quarantine has given me external support in this process of self-realization. I only hope I have the courage and awareness to protect my introverted preferences once society has returned to its bustling.