For some of us, it’s been a year. A year of staying inside, ordering groceries for delivery, taking a walk every single day because that was the only legal excuse to leave the house
(I say some of us, because some states haven’t had many restrictions, some countries had intense restrictions and then returned life to almost normal, and some had a hybrid of lock down / fewer restrictions / lock down again. And of course, others who have died from COVID-19 don’t have the chance to worry about anything anymore.)
During this time, even people in countries with a lock down have still had to go to work. They’ve been around other people on public transit, in the office, out in the world. They have likely experienced more trauma than the rest of us (especially and obviously those who have been providing care to those sickened by COVID-19). They also, I would guess, will have an easier time easing back into the social aspects of society, because being around someone other than their roommate or immediate family members, or perhaps the person ringing them up in the grocery store, won’t be weird. They have been around coworkers for the past year.
So this is for the rest of us – the ones who, regardless of lock down status, have been following recommendations to not be indoors with people outside your household if possible, not going out to dinner, not visiting stores for non-essential items. Maybe we’ve been able to play some outdoor sports, or met up with a friend for a walk in the park. But we’ve not seen friends in a bar in at least a year, and we haven’t had to make small talk with the co-worker we don’t really know.
I am an introvert. I know a lot of people roll their eyes at the extrovert / introvert discussion, but the reality is that being attentive to or receiving attention from more than a handful of people is, to me, exhausting. I love my friends. I love getting together over dinner with one or two of them, having interesting conversations. I love going to the movies with them. But I can only do it in fairly small doses without being exhausted for awhile.
And work? Oh man, work has always been a challenge. Working from home this past year has been hard in many ways, but in others it’s been AMAZING. I’ve gotten about 30 minutes extra sleep at night while still getting my morning run in each day. I’ve saved money on the breakfasts and lunches I would purchase during the workday. And while I have some morning phone calls where I have to be ‘on’, I haven’t had to make small talk with my admittedly awesome colleagues when I’m still getting oriented to the world. I can focus on my work without interruptions, and can also just get up and lay down on my bed for a few minutes when I’m overwhelmed. I know so many people thrive in the in-person office space, especially people who have more creative jobs than I do, but the idea of having to keep my mood chipper and my interactions constant for eight hours a day, every day, is a bit terrifying. Like, how was it okay that we used to do this? How is it still okay for people working in jobs that must be done in person? Surely they deserve fewer hours and higher pay because ack. That’s just so … much.
Between July and October I was able to train with my former football club, and that was amazing. It was structured – training once a week, matches once a week – but still a time where I was around other people, some of whom have become friends. And being outside, there wasn’t nearly as much concern about transmitting the disease. We could for the most part just run around and play, expending energy before returning back home to resume some of the elements of lock down life.
But (other than a couple of weeks in December), even that social interaction has been gone. Since early November, my in-person contact with other humans outside my partner have been primarily with my dentist. I needed a root canal, and the process took four visits. I admit I looked forward to those visits as it was a legally allowed way for me to both leave the house and hear another person’s voice. Also my tooth feels much better, so that’s nice. But I would always feel some anxiety in the day leading up, not because of the fear of pain, but because it was me, being around someone else.
Now that rules are starting to lessen, we’re starting to make plans, and I’m starting to get a little anxious.
Like, my new football team is starting training on 31 March. I’m seeing some friends this weekend and this week (outdoors, of course). And at some point, even more will open up. Restaurants will start serving again, and friends will want to go to one. I’ve not been inside a restaurant since February 2020. I did not “eat out to help out” because that seemed like a horrible idea (spoiler alert: it was). But I understand why some people did. They wanted to see people. They wanted some sense of normalcy. And they were probably tired of doing all the washing up after cooking every meal every day for months.
I would like a different normal when more people are vaccinated and restrictions are lifted. I want to start traveling again, for sure. That’s what I’ve missed the most – that, and bookstores. But I want to be more careful with my time, because I’ve learned that yes, I definitely need more human interaction than the pandemic has allowed, but I also work better with less than pre-2020 expectations required.
So what does that mean? Well, I’m keeping up with football, so that means one night a week I’ll have training, and Saturdays I will have games. I know that Friday nights I’m usually pretty tuckered out, so I think my primary times for seeing friends will need to be Sunday brunches or perhaps Monday evenings. Obviously I can’t be so strict that there’s no flexibility for seeing friends who are in town, or going to a show, or just spontaneously meeting up with folks, but I also know that I cannot and will not try to ‘make up for lost time’ by trying to shove my days full of things again. It has been nice, having weekend days that aren’t jam packed. It’s been nice knowing that when work ends, I have my evenings to my self.
But I do also really miss my friends. And I’m excited to have the option of making plans that aren’t just a zoom chat.
I know some people might read this and feel a connection to it. But others are probably flummoxed by the idea that, once vaccinated, I’m still going to be a bit timid with returning to ‘normal’ life. Or that I’m hoping that life never returns to the exact normal that we all had before.
So to my friends who are extroverts, and cannot wait to pick everything back up, and start making loads of plans: please be patient with us. My not jumping on the first opportunity to meet up does not mean I don’t want to see you. It just means that I’m still trying to figure out how to navigate the world again.