After weeks of speculation and increasing anxiety, of wondering where the virus came from and how dangerous it was, I got the official email from my university announcing the cancellation of all in-person classes through the rest of the academic year.
I felt a mixture of excitement and fear. The thrill of staying home where I’m cozy, familiar, safe and able work on assignments at my own pace, made me believe that quarantine wouldn’t be a disruption to my life, but rather a much-needed break from the fast-paced and energetic routine of a college campus.
Staying inside with little to no human contact was my realm, and I ruled it. This was my revenge on all the extroverts who didn’t understand how I found comfort in solitude. This was my victory over the friends who were always going out and pushing me to do the same. This would be EASY.
And for the first month or so, it was. I divided my time between schoolwork and creative projects. My internship and work responsibilities seamlessly transitioned to an online format. I discovered new albums and artists. I cleaned my room. All of the tracks on Mario Kart were unlocked. I listened to the nightly howling and felt a sense of community despite the distance.
I was thriving.
Now, nearly 10 weeks later, I want out.
There is a delicate structure to loneliness that even the most introverted people feel. I miss seeing friends, and I’m sick of staring at screens all day — from Zoom lectures to work meetings to television screens. The amount of time it takes to compose eloquent written communication has intensified. I miss being unfiltered.
Contrary to popular belief, introverts do enjoy social interaction—they just don’t thrive on it in the same way that extroverts do. We need time to recharge with solitary activities. We need time to unwind, absorb, dissect and understand the stimulation and conversations we encounter throughout the day.
Home used to be that space where I could retreat.
Now, with the days bleeding into one another and much of that human connection coming from glitchy Zoom calls and classroom discussion boards, the spaces where I can decompress are limited to my bedroom or a walk in the neighborhood with a mask on.
As an introvert, it’s actually been harder staying at home as the world made such rapid accommodations to stay connected.
I haven’t had a problem not leaving the house, but that doesn’t mean my bubble hasn’t been invaded. Zoom parties. Daily FaceTime calls across time zones. Slack meetings. Hours of recorded lectures. Virtual events, tours, and recreation. Hearing the words, “I have a Zoom call at noon, 2 p.m., 4 p.m., and 6 p.m.” was the equivalent of saying, “We’re having four parties today.” This was a nightmare for someone who already felt drained after one coffee date.
I feel like I’ve interacted more with people who are desperate to bring their social lives into their homes than before quarantine began. As if my living room being used for a gym, classroom, and office all at once wasn’t bad enough, it baffled me when, after only a few weeks into quarantine, my extroverted friends decided to “break the rules” and go physically see other people. I couldn’t fathom why their need for interaction was so great, especially when it felt like they’d already found a way to handle it virtually.
For me, there was a loss of physical space for reflective thinking and time alone rather than a loss of social gatherings. Perhaps the hardest part to accept was the loss of control in deciding when to go out. Pre-pandemic, if I wanted to relax in a bookstore or coffee shop, I could—I knew I had a space to come home to. Now, that isn’t even an option anymore.
What introverts need during the pandemic is time alone. Truly alone. Not an increase in virtual interactions.
In a society that values extroversion and socializing, I thought this would showcase introversion’s resilience, but instead I’ve felt a new type of suffocation that self-isolation seemed to amplify, not appease. It’s made me realize that every personality type processes anxiety differently. For introverts, extroverts, and everyone in between, COVID-19 has resulted in a disoriented state of feeling simultaneously overwhelmed and secluded.
This isn’t to say social distancing hasn’t retained its initial perks for an introvert. I’ve created new nooks and crannies where I can hide away within my house. The remoteness bred creativity and provided me with hours of focus (when not Zooming). And I haven’t had to come up with an excuse to not go out since March.
Many introverts are dreading when the orders are lifted, but I’m eager to once more experience the outside world—by myself and without the looming presence of a video call. As Colorado tentatively begins its gradual reopening with new social distancing guidelines, I’m hoping, like many others, to find a sense of normalcy again going into the summer months.
Skylar Nitzel is a creative writing and journalism student at the University of Denver. She lives in Lakewood.