Ain’t No Cure for the Extrovert Blues

Beading, Netflix-binging, paint by numbers, at-home workouts. I’ve tried everything to stay occupied during this quarantine. If you had asked me what I do in my free time before March 14, I would’ve given you a half-true answer I had in fourth grade: I read, I write, and I spend time with my family. These days—when free time is endless—I oversleep, I watch TV, and I spend an unhealthy number of hours on the internet. The truth is, at-home activities just don’t do it for me: I achieve happiness by being around others. 

The large misconception about extroverts is that they’re outgoing people with bubbly personalities. Actually, being an extrovert means you gain energy from socializing with others, whereas introverts usually recharge by spending time alone. 

Thus, my quarantine predicament. 

Normally, my weekend plans would involve exploring the city with friends or family, which could entail dinner at a new restaurant or seeing an exhibit at the Art Institute. Now, out of concern for my own health and the health of others, I’m forced to stay inside, save for the occasional masked walk in my neighborhood. 

Sadly for me, I’ve interacted face-to-face with very few people outside of my nuclear family during the two months I’ve spent in quarantine. Like many others, my days blend together: Sundays, usually reserved for brunch and homework, no longer feel like distinct days of the week. Every day feels like a Sunday, and it doesn’t help that Chicago winters last until May. 

Outside of my online classes, I interact with a handful of people through FaceTime calls and Zoom meets, but I end up feeling like a character in a strange “Black Mirror” episode. I’m beginning to crave human interaction—not the kind that’s through a screen—and the independence I always took for granted. 

My online classes are glitch-filled, and, if I’m lucky, I can last an entire class period without losing internet connection. Discussions that were once enthralling feel lackluster. Presentations border on awkward. Zoom is amazing in the way it can connect people, but it is no replacement for the physical aspect of education. 

At a time in my life, and the lives of other Gen Zers, that is supposed to be about expansion and exploration, I am more insular than ever. I’ve committed to college, but it’s hard to feel relieved when I have few people with whom I can celebrate. It’s unclear whether I’ll even be able to set foot on campus come August. 

What scares me most, however, is how the idea of socialization will change after this pandemic subsides. Restaurants and museums will open with time, but will the act of visiting them change? Will the fear of germs and contracting another virus force us into a mask and glove-filled frenzy? 

While I’m extremely thankful for the roof over my head, my good health, and my family’s financial security during this time, I’m scared. For extroverts (and maybe even some introverts) who are also feeling a bit lost, all I have to say is that our idea of normalcy is going to change post-COVID. Even if crowd-filled activities become commonplace once again, it will take longer than we’d like. 

If there is one silver lining during this pandemic for us extroverts, it’s that it has put things into perspective. Like, standing-at-the-bottom-of-the-Willis-Tower-and-looking-up perspective. 

Little things I always took for granted have become highlights of my days stuck in quarantine. I’ve learned to enjoy late-night FaceTime calls dedicated to completing chemistry homework and running into old friends during my tri-weekly walk around the neighborhood.

Although we may feel inexplicably anti-social during this time, perhaps, when COVID-19 becomes more manageable, we’ll emerge from our homes when friendlier and more gregarious than ever before. You can count on the fact that I won’t ever again complain about being the shortest person in a crowd—I’ll just be happy to be in one.