At the start of the COVID-19 Lockdown there were a lot of memes and jokes about being an introvert. This one was one of my favorites:
‘Social distancing.’ Please, I’ve been training for a pandemic my entire life. Introverts rise up, we’re finally valid!
And like all memes and jokes, there was some truth there. It was a lot easier for introverts to stay at home and limit social interactions. My teenage kiddos handled lockdown very differently. One was fine to stay at home and game online with friends. The other desperately needed social interactions. We navigated the best that we could as parents weighing the risk/benefits.
Then the world opened back up again. Once briefly in the summer of 2021, and that peek back into the world was actually fun for me. I remember taking a trip to Asheville with the husband. NO MASKS, dinner and drinks outside in the mountain air. I actually felt safe doing all of those things…. and then it was no more. By the time we were trying to plan our Christmas travels, we were back to no airline travel (for us) and the Omicron variant was heading to us with full force. Defeated, we were double vaccinated and planning a trip to Kiawah Island for the holidays because we could drive there. I met up with a friend from undergrad, and we shivered by the beautiful river view while catching up because hanging out inside was not an option for either of us. I truly think that fake reopening impacted me more than I was willing to admit. To know it could go away again was just too much.
I have always been an introvert, but before the pandemic I would have called myself a social introvert. I liked being around people, but that time to recharge was needed. After the pandemic, I am not sure what I am or what to call myself. I asked like minded friends on social media, and most responded in ways that felt validating. There were few take aways that resonated with me:
Being social post pandemic, I was more selective. I agree with this wholeheartedly and think age might also be a factor. When we are younger (especially women), I think we say “yes” to social activities because we feel like we have to (women are more often pleasers in the social world). COVID allowed us to say no with a damn good excuse and that felt good to us introverts. For me, post pandemic, when I do say yes to a social engagement, I have fun when I am there, but the exhaustion after is HUGE. That need to recharge as a social introvert takes a lot more time.
How does menopause play into being a post pandemic introvert? Are we more tired because of menopause, which makes us more likely to decline social engagements? The menopause fatigue is probably another blog post in it of itself.
With our recent move to a new state where I only know a few people, I am making it a rule of at least one social engagement per week. Just one. It doesn’t have to be a big party or anything, just doing at least one thing social with at least one other person who is not a family member or an animal (don’t judge extrovert friends, this will take some effort). For me, this feels like a good balance of trying to “get out there” but also honoring the fact that I am a very different person post pandemic. I want to honor those feelings, but also not hermit myself at The Chicken Creek Compound the next 4 years. I learned while writing and editing my dissertation that setting goals helps me stay accountable (I literally denied myself fried popcorn shrimp and french fries that one Friday night because I did not finishing editing that last damn chapter) so I feel good with my plan to get back out into the world in a way that works for 50 year old me.