I'm an introvert at heart. I derive true joy and solace from spending time on my own, and I have a few tight-knit friends instead of dozens of acquaintances, which is exactly how I like it. I prefer intimate nights in with them over noisy nights out any day. When the pandemic hit the world last year, it was disconcerting for everyone. But then I thought to myself, "Well, staying home has pretty much been what I've been training for my whole life!" There were suddenly no more social hangouts in raucous bars or bustling coffee shops to get to. I got to stay inside the comforting confines of my own home and be a responsible human being by doing so. My now-even-more-sporadic essential trips were accompanied by me wearing a face mask — blessing me with the anonymity I've always desired. All in all, I was perfectly fine and happy to stay at home (which I know I was incredibly fortunate to be able to do). My introverted persona, intent on making the best lemonade out of the sourest of lemons in 2020, was more than content. But what I didn't anticipate was that the momentary rush I felt had an expiration date.
If the past year has taught me anything, it's how remarkably uncertain life is and how much I need to expand my horizons to live and enjoy it to the fullest while I'm still here.
As days bled into months and months into a year (seriously, what?), with no sense of what day of the week it was, my happiness with isolation began to fade. I had more time than ever on my hands. Various new hobbies buoyed me as I anxiously witnessed the world devolve into a fatal grip of COVID-19 with each passing day. March 2020 saw me learn how to make sourdough bread, partake in the Dalgona coffee challenge, try (and miserably fail at) the "Blinding Lights" TikTok dance routine, all while watching the enticing drama of Tiger King unfold. After devouring several books and catching up on a countless number of shows and movies — which, thanks to the seemingly endless content of the digital streaming world, I'll always be lagging with — I began introspecting, dissecting, and ruminating on my conscious and subconscious lifestyle choices.
I started with the moment everything came to a screeching halt, aka the infamous week of March 9, 2020. I believe almost everyone remembers what exactly they were doing when lockdown measures were put in place in their respective geographical locations. Mine is indelibly etched in my mind. I was fanatically crossing days off my calendar until I could watch A Quiet Place Part II in a movie theatre and then grab a bite with my friend afterward. When everything, including cinemas, shut down, I was heartbroken by the sudden dire turn of events. But there was a small voice in the back of my mind that breathed a sigh of relief about how I wouldn't have to go out now (introverts know exactly what I'm talking about).
Looking back now, I can't seem to reconcile how much my me time was always the top of my priorities, so much so that I would go out of my way to come up with viably elaborate reasons to support why I had to stay in. I was thrilled that no one would be able to burst my serotonin-inducing bubble of solitude. Of course, at first, like the rest of us, I naively thought the pandemic would last for a month or two, tops. But after being left alone with just my inner thoughts, nursery plants, regurgitated memes, and occasional mindless entertainment to keep me company, I began to miss being pushed outside of my comfort zone. It also didn't take me long to realise how emotionally and physically draining it is to adapt to the virtual socialising of Zoom or Google Meet, what with frequent freezing sessions and apparent lack of social cues to pick up on.
I terribly miss my friends. I'm sick of watching them two-dimensionally on my laptop screen. Sometimes I even catch myself fantasizing about how I would break in a new cute outfit, do my hair and makeup, and dance the night away with my best friends. While it may just be the perverse reaction to the current circumstances after being cooped up inside my house for over a year now, a girl can dream. After all, it's one thing to choose to stay at home, and it's another when you are explicitly told not to go out.
Don't get me wrong, I'm still very much an introvert. I can't – and most likely won't – socialise the way an extroverted counterpart would. I'll still need to recharge my social batteries by spending a decent amount of time alone. But once this nightmare is over — and I have my fingers crossed that there's now a light at the end of the tunnel — I'll make a conscious effort to challenge myself to try new experiences, even if they come with a hint of social anxiety. With the world in the thick of vaccine distribution, it may even be possible sooner than later. If the past year has taught me anything, it's how remarkably uncertain life is and how much I need to expand my horizons to live and enjoy it to the fullest while I'm still here. Heck, I'll even go as far as to take charge of making plans with my friends. Look out, world, this introvert is about ready to burst out of her cocoon (or her room). You get the gist.