I have been isolating as much as physically possible since March 23rd, 2020. As everyone knows, we are kind of in the middle of a global pandemic. Now, before you click off this post, know I’m not here to tell you how bad this is gonna be, or how much everyone’s overreacting, or what wild conspiracy theories to believe & not to believe. I’m not interested in any of that. For the sake of today’s post, I am only interested in the effects of social isolation.
Anyway, apart from a few trips out to get take-out food and two socially distanced outdoor meetups with one couple, I’ve been staying in my own little world. It’s a little tricky at times to manage my social need vs. my need for alone time. As some may know, I live in a household with 4 other people. This makes truly isolating, even in isolation, a little difficult. That being said, over the last few months, my household has had very little interpersonal drama. In general, we all know each other’s needs and desires for socialization and space, and we communicate when needed. In general, I find that I prefer to spend more time alone working on personal projects (see: this blog post) than I spend just hanging out with the fam. Nonetheless, I do spend time with them. After dinner we stick around the table, sipping wine and shooting the breeze. On “Mario Monday”, when possible, we gather in the living room to play Mario Party. I’ve found a balance between my personal projects and my social need.
There is a certain cultural emphasis I see on the concepts of “introversion” and “extraversion.” Often, you are said to be either one or the other–– an extravert who thrives and recharges off of social interaction and is lost without it, or an introvert, who lives for solitude and is drained by social activity. This dichotomy is, simply put, a myth. The reality behind human social tendency is far more complex than that. Carl Jung, credited with coining the terms, stated himself that extraversion and introversion are not, in any way, a continuum that implies having more of one must mean less of the other. In fact, originally, his intention was to show that there was an introverted and extraverted side to everyone–– one is simply, usually, more dominant.
I believe that this quarantine is bringing this to light for a lot of people. Many extraverts are realizing that being alone isn’t have bad. Many introverts are noticing that, despite their day-to-day schedules not changing much, they miss the social interaction they did have in the first place. It’s a shift in which side of them is dominant, spurred by the requirement to isolate.
Back to my own experience; I am fascinated by how quickly my hypersocial persona from over the fall and winter faded quickly away into isolative satisfaction in the spring (with the introduction of COVID-19 into the United States.) Despite my former desperation not to spend an evening alone and bored, and my avid socialization with various circles, I’ve found that living in isolation has been… wonderful. Frankly, I’m doing quite well. Now, to be fair, I do live with people; I am not in complete and utter isolation. However, as I briefly mentioned before, my tendency has been away from those I live with, and into my own cocoon. It’s gotten me thinking about why this change has happened to me, and how I will be able to re-adjust to society after I finally decide to emerge from said cocoon.
If I decide to emerge from it.
The real thing grinding the gears in the back of my mind might seem, at first, laughable–– what happens if I end up a hermit, after all of this? Sure, I’m quite confident that this won’t actually happen–– I do miss my friends, and I do want to see them. Still, he social distancing requirements are lifting slowly, day by day. More and more of my friends are reaching out to me to, when these restrictions are lifted, hang out and do some stuff. Yet, to everyone, I say, “not yet. I don’t think it’s safe yet.” And while this is true––I don’t––it’s almost irrelevant to the real reasons why I don’t want to go.
I am comfortable in my isolation.
There is a simple fact about the nature of human relationships: they are complicated. For a person and another person to interact and get along, they must learn each other. Know parts of each other. Allow each other to know those parts. There are things you shouldn’t say, couldn’t say, things you can only say to one person. Even if you love people for all their flaws, like I so deeply do, there is no denying the complexity and emotional strain of maintaining healthy relationships. Some are easier than others, but every relationship is different, and even the easiest ones have the quirks and intricacies. I think this is why, for me, this isolation has been so strangely liberating. As much as I adore my friends, and I miss that connection, I also have not connected so much with myself in a very long time.
Many of us live disconnected from ourselves. We all do sometimes, I think, but some people more so than others. For me, this isolation has helped open my eyes to what my priorities are. I want to write more. I’ve been brainstorming my novel, writing for my friends, and overall focusing more on my personal projects than I have, quite literally, in years. In the end, I just hope that the social isolation of this pandemic can put things into perspective for more people than just me–– what do you want to do when it’s just you? Now is the time to do it.