As the end of this pandemic nears and your excitement bubbles over into squeals of delight, exuberant hugs, and an overbooked social calendar, please remember that while many of us are thankful that the dangers of this pandemic are waning, returning to what you call normal doesn’t exactly excite us as much as it does you.
We’re happy for you. We get it, not being able to be yourself is draining; it messes with your entire outlook, is depressing and frustrating, leaves you with an aimless sense of loss, and you can’t function or focus. We understand and sympathize. We know you dealt with cabin fever and went a bit stir crazy. The past year and a half was hard for you, you could not be yourself. You probably flitted from hobby to hobby, only finished half a book, no matter how many times you picked it up, found the end of the internet, and there isn’t anything left to watch.
Here’s the thing, the excitement that’s spilling out of you and dowsing those around you with supposed joy is exhausting to the introverts in your life. We relished the slower pace that you found so confining.
Bed on time and no morning alarm? Wonderful.
Empty social calendar? Brilliant. Didn’t want to do half the things, anyway.
Working from home? No more idle chitchat every time we leave our desk and we don’t have to eat lunch in the break room? Awesome.
Shopping for necessities or picking up milk once a week or less? Didn’t know this was a problem for some.
Ordering takeout? Sounds great. The noisy restaurant was overstimulating and crowded. We’d rather eat in our own kitchen.
Those of us that fared well over the past year or so are now experiencing a fatigue like none we’ve previously experienced. Why, you ask? Because everyone expects us to be thrilled about seeing people, attending large events, and standing in crowds. We’re expected to put a smile on our face and jump right into full schedules, concerts, offices full of coworkers, and family events with the exuberance of college students on Spring Break.
Don’t take this the wrong way. Not all introverts fared well during the pandemic, and we shouldn’t overlook or discount the seriousness of mental health issues like depression and isolation quarantining can cause. Nor should we ignore the fact that some extroverts found the quarantine restrictions refreshing. People aren’t necessarily one or the other, the extro/introvert spectrum is large and people may fall anywhere between the two end points.
We’re not trying to be party-poopers and it may sound like introverts don’t like people. That’s not the case. At least not for most of us. Usually, we don’t like the buzz of activity that comes with constantly seeing others. We’re quite happy left on our own for a while, down time restores and revitalizes us. But society seems to be completely done with down time right now and everyone’s expected to jump into life with abandon. Let’s be honest, introverts weren’t going wild before the pandemic, it’s not likely we’re going to suddenly decide to be outgoing now that we’ve had a worldwide respite from everything.
So, dear extroverts, please tone it down. We know it’s not your fault, but you’re exhausting. Your discomfort and anxiety have neared their end, that is a valid reason to celebrate, but while you’re making plans, zipping from one activity to another, and celebrating everything possible, we’re simply doing our best to grin and bear it. We’re plastering smiles on our faces and shoving down any discomfort we may experience while we deal with your overexuberance. We were used to it once, and many of us did a passable job of hiding our unease then. The pandemic was a breather for us; it allowed us to refuel and regroup. We’re discovering just how much work it was, and is, to live in your “normal” world.
I can’t speak for all introverts, and again, many of us fall somewhere between the two extremes. Personally, I know resuming my pre-pandemic life is not going well for me. The last few weeks have been exhausting. Physically and emotionally exhausting, and it shows. I’m worn out and always tired. I can’t concentrate or find time to do simple things, and I don’t want to do anything.
Introverts like me are expected to be cheerful as you bounce over to me elatedly waving your arms and cheering, “Isn’t it great? We can see you now! Are you going to so-and-so’s for the gathering?” Sure. It’s great. Like a birthday, it’s fun to eat cake and get presents, but we aren’t always happy about the years adding up. Don’t be surprised if we still leave the party early, even if we haven’t seen you in nearly a year or longer. It’s just going to take us a moment to regain our momentum.