An Introvert’s Guide to Social Distancing

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I’d like to speak to my fellow introverts first.

Fam, this is our time. We’ve been preparing for this our entire lives through diligent preemptive social distancing. All those evenings and weekends spent in your own magnificent company. The texts and phone calls from friends that you left unanswered, lest someone try to lure you out of your house. The doors that stayed locked even after someone knocked. The legion of excuses you employed to keep from accepting invitations to social engagements. I already know you have all the reading materials, comfy blankets, caffeinated beverages, snacks, and snuggly animals that you’ll need to get to the other side of this crisis. Know that I’m with each of you the best way I know how: by not being with any of you at all…

Okay, extroverts, now it’s your turn.

Things are getting real out there, so I’m not going to sugarcoat this. The road ahead is going to be difficult for you. For me, on the other hand, not much has really changed in my day to day life. Recent events have forced me to come to terms with the fact that my innate penchant for avoiding most social situations meets the basic definition of living under quarantine conditions. And I’ll still be living in as much self-imposed silence as I can muster long after this global pandemic subsides and everyone else returns to their lives as social butterflies. But if you’re finding yourself panicking at the thought of several weeks’ worth of canceled events combined with the harsh reality of your suddenly barren calendar: welcome to my world. It’s quiet, isn’t it? Why don’t you sit back and let a life long introvert guide you through the unfamiliar landscape that has become your home sweet home for the duration…

Your Best Friend Is You (or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Talking to Myself)

If I’m being real, I never actually learned to stop worrying. I worry about everything, all the time. Currently, I’m worried about the ramifications of this virus on vulnerable people across the globe, both those that might become ill and those that will be destroyed financially by losing even a single paycheck.

But I do love talking to myself and have since I was an odd little girl. This skill is a requirement if you’re going to spend a lot of time one on one…with yourself. It’s all about getting comfy in your own skin and not minding the feeling of being alone with your thoughts. Once you’re hunkered down in blissful solitude, you’ll notice it’s actually pretty great. I don’t spend as much time alone as I used to, and I miss it. Whenever I cobble together some alone time, I find myself going back and forth, as though chatting with another person. You’ll find this happening to you as the social distancing goes on. Lean into it. Talking to yourself is definitely not a sign of acute psychosis, despite what passersby who have overheard my conversations with myself in the past might think.

All joking aside (and I wasn’t really joking about the nonstop talking to myself), learning to enjoy time by yourself is critical to surviving however long we’re stuck inside our own houses. I use my alone time to ground myself, to recharge. Without it, I tatter at the edges and risk unraveling completely. I get that, as extroverts, you recharge by being around people (WEIRD), but try on this alone time for a little while and see how it feels. For me, it’s both a requirement and a blessing. Though I wouldn’t have wished for a global pandemic to suddenly and decisively clear my entire calendar, I can honestly say I don’t mind slowing down. Not to mention canceled plans are literally my idea of a good time.

Your Pet is Now Your BFF

If talking to yourself seems weird (why the judgement, extroverts?), you can always turn to your pet for conversation and moral support. During your self-imposed exile of indeterminate length, this creature will fill the role of your fuzzy, non-judgmental best buddy. I worked from home for years before all of this social distancing stuff was mandated, so my dog knows the drill. She chills with me for hours as she lounges in the comfy bed I set up for her right next to my desk. I talk to her all day long, and goddamn if she isn’t a great listener, even when she’s asleep, which is often. Pets have a calming effect on me. They don’t expect or demand levels of engagement that other people do just by their mere presence. Your pet is cool with you never putting on real clothes. She’s A-okay with you placing the Hamilton soundtrack on repeat or eating nothing but popcorn all day (just help a puppy out and drop a piece here and there, okay?).

Books are Powerful Magic

When I was but a wee introverted girl, I discovered that books were portals that could take me wherever I wanted to go. I devoured them as quickly as I could get my hands on them. They still work as magic portals, and you can have as many adventures as you like, provided you make the time to plant yourself somewhere quiet and dive in. I’m hoping the strong suggestion against leaving my house will result in more hours getting lost in the pages of a good book. And with the ability to download titles digitally (OverDrive is your friend, y’all), there’s absolutely no need to leave your house at all. I really can’t understand folks that don’t prize reading, but if you’re one of those people, this situation is likely going to get much worse before it gets better…

Just kidding. Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, and cable TV still exist. Get a hold of yourselves, extroverts! Pop some popcorn, snuggle up in a nest of blankets with your furry BFF, and laissez les bons temps rouler. In other words, binge until you can’t binge anymore!

Food is Life

The real secret to living life like an introvert involves prioritizing personal comfort above all else. Extroverts, what makes you happy that doesn’t involve going outside and hanging out with people like a weirdo? Besides alone time, pets, and books, food is a huge component of my daily selfcare plan. And this is something I have in common with most, if not all, of my extroverted friends. We can bond over a good meal and drinks, which is fabulous, but I also like to curl up with a book and a snack all by my lonesome. On nights alone, I like to cook an intricate meal while listening to a podcast and talking to no one. The joy in not communicating, in just being there, by myself, in my head, while onions and garlic sizzle fragrantly on the stovetop, or something savory roasts in the oven. For me, food is everything, and eating it alone while reading a book or watching a movie is my little piece of heaven on Earth.

That’s really the long and short of what makes this introvert tick. And despite the fact that some of us are born introverts and others extroverts, you can ride out the next few weeks by surrounding yourself with the things that make you happiest: good food, books, pets, and movies. Take long showers. Exercise more, if that centers you the way it does me. Take a long walk (still allowed!). Check in with those you care about most via text message (vastly superior to phone calls, IMHO). Write in a journal. Sit in your backyard at night and watch the stars. If all else fails, you can host a virtual dinner party on Google Hangouts to be alone, together with everyone else practicing this social distancing thing for the first time.

Above all, take care of yourself. Your best friend is you.

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