Cancel all parties, events, and gatherings. Limit all social interactions. Stay at least six feet away from others. Stay home. All this would ordinarily sound like a dream to introverts.
Indeed, when New Yorkers were first advised to self-quarantine back in mid-March, introverts discreetly danced a happy dance. No longer did they feel obligated to engage in artificial small talk with neighbors, no longer did they have to endure the ever-dreaded Monday morning office discussions about what everybody did over the weekend. They were safely protected in their most favorite place: home.
When I venture out now, I simply point to my mask as a justification for having to avoid nonsensical conversation. Other introverts have also noticed benefits. “I use this time as a kind of contemplation and isolation with myself,” said Shoshana S. from Netanya, Israel. “I now have the time and space to better reflect and take a personal account of my life and what I will do differently after this is all over.”
She added that the quarantine has also enhanced her marriage, allowing her and her husband of over 30 years to focus on growing as a couple as life’s race is paused.
But it is not all sunshine for introverts. Indeed, almost all the introverts I interviewed admitted that after the quarantine “honeymoon” stage, they were surprised to experience feelings of discontent.
“I love my kids; I really do,” said G. S., a father of three from Midwood, Brooklyn, “but is it bad that I hide from them in the bathroom?” he asked. As an introvert, he said, he craves his alone time, but with everyone in his family at home all day, he is never truly alone.
Introverts are also suffering from lack of independence. It’s one thing to choose to be isolated; it’s another when it is forced upon you. “I love being home, but the feeling of being trapped is killing me,” said Anita Glass of Marine Park, Brooklyn. “I want to be home on my terms, not because there’s no place to go.”
Even for working mothers, like Miriam Engel, who have always dreamed of being able to stay home and spend time with their family, living under lockdown has been challenging. “I love being home, spending extra time with the kids, and my house has never been so organized, but I admit I hate the monotony and lack of schedule.”
A moment of realization came to me the other day when I found myself gazing out the window for an hour in the hopes of glimpsing another human being. When I eventually spotted one, I actually shed a tear as this random stranger acknowledged me by smiling, waving, and wishing me a good day.
“What was that about?!” I asked myself.
Introverts in quarantine admit they are caught off guard by these never-before-felt feelings of isolation and do not exactly know how to process them. Yes, they love all the social distancing policies, but they are also becoming aware – possibly for the first time in their lives – that they actually do crave being part of society.