It seems like since the vaccine came out, the world has been in this semi-normal phase, which makes me want to stay home. Getting back into the swing of my social life has been a challenge I never expected to have.
Five months before the pandemic took over the national and global news, I moved to Georgia. Just when I was really beginning to get comfortable exploring my new home, everything began to shut down. This turn of events did not turn out so bad for me, though. I had recently started dating someone, and we were getting pretty serious. The lockdown ensured we spent a lot of time together. I spent the year going through all of the insanity of 2020 with him and his family, and while the year was challenging, I think I would have moved back to Florida if it wasn’t for them.
That being said, the pandemic severely limited the number of people I communicated with, the places I went, and how I planned trips to different places. Pre-pandemic me was not a planner. If I wanted to go somewhere, it was a spontaneous trip. Even if I decided to go somewhere a couple of days before, I usually waited until the day of to buy tickets or prepare whatever needed to be ready.
Some may call it procrastination; I call it seeing where the wavelengths take me. Restlessness always led to some adventure and letting each day have its own flow worked well for me.
Do you know what else pre-pandemic me did?
Talk to strangers! For whatever reason, it was easy for me to pick up a conversation with anyone or for them to pick one up with me. I’ve met my share of unique people with exciting stories this way. This was my thing; I felt like I could literally talk to anyone! But, this isn’t the case anymore. Post-pandemic me is a different beast. Let’s examine.
I love hiking here; it’s one of the few joys I discovered before the pandemic started. But lately, I have been needing more and more motivation to leave the house. Sometimes it literally feels like I have to lift a mental 250-pound weight in my mind just to leave home.
My fiancee and I were headed to the store after a nice long hike on one of my favorite trails when one of my tires went flat as we passed a minor accident. The next day we went to the tire store to purchase new tires.
While waiting for the car to get fixed, I sat down and immediately pulled out my phone. An older lady came and sat in the chair beside me. The chairs were 6 feet-ish apart following social distancing measures.
“Hi!” She chirped, with her eyes crinkling over her mask.
I looked up and gave her an equally cheerful hello. Immediately, her shoulders relaxed as if a weight had just been lifted.
“ With everyone having to wear masks, you just can’t tell if people will be friendly or not.”
“Yea! That’s so true!” I awkwardly nodded before turning my attention back to my phone. My fiance immediately picked up the conversation, and they started chatting away.
I racked my brain as I sat there, wondering why it was so hard for me to talk to her. A trip down memory lane examined the very few opportunities I had to talk with strangers over the last couple of months. Turns out, I hadn’t really spoken to anyone! The ambivert social butterfly who could strike up a conversation with anyone was now this shy recluse introvert who could barely muster up a conversation I didn’t even have to initiate.
Over the next few weeks, I continued to evaluate just how much the pandemic changed me socially. It was more than the pandemic. After riots, insane politicians, rampant ignorance, and a deadly virus, how could I feel comfortable returning to my pre-pandemic social life?
My fiancee’s career as a DJ has forced him to get back into the swing of things. In contrast, my career allows me to freely work from anywhere. Therefore, most of my conversations with new people are scheduled.
I cringe at the idea of going to a bar, club, or lounge because it seems like nobody cares about taking precautions there. Every time I’m out of the house, it feels like I’m watching the clock and the door. It’s been difficult enjoying myself in most places, and that is when I actually go out. The woman who could go anywhere and everywhere barely wants to leave the house now. It truly takes a ton of convincing for me to leave my humble castle.
Have I permanently become an introvert with additional hermit-style tendencies? I don’t think so, but this feels like who I am right now. I can’t even make spontaneous trips anywhere because EVERY PLACE NEEDS A TIMED TICKET! I’m not complaining; I totally get it, we have to take safety precautions, but the added hassle makes me want to stay home more. Case in point.
A couple weeks ago, my fiancee and I decided to go to the Georgia Aquarium for my birthday. Apparently, Georgia residents get free admission on their birthday. We arrived on a Wednesday around 1:30, and it was packed. It took 30–40 minutes to find a parking space. We waited 20 minutes for the elevator before deciding to take the stairs. The stairwell literally had over a hundred people trying to make it up and down the stairs, and we had seven floors to go down. Insanity.
But we made it! We get to the ticket kiosk to show proof of my birthday and get my free entry. The kiosks were closed, and there was one electronic kiosk open and no way to get my birthday perk. We considered paying full price, but we would have to wait 3 hours before getting into the aquarium. So we left. By the time we got to the end of the parking lot, it was 3:00 PM, and we almost had to pay $17 for parking, but we explained what happened, and the lovely parking attendants let us out!
The trip was a bust, and I only wanted to go home after that. The rest of my day was fantastic inside the house.
Everywhere is crowded now, and maybe it’s just me, but I feel like there are so many dangers you have to look out for now in public. This doesn’t mean I’m out here not enjoying myself at all, but it does mean that I don’t like doing everything I used to do. I’m learning that I am already enjoying what I’m doing now. My restlessness has gone nowhere, and the most amazing thing is that I’ve managed to pour that energy into avenues I’ve only talked about before.
My time at home has consisted of me:
- trying to start a balcony garden and failing,
- taking exciting leaps in my marketing, business development, and writing careers,
- putting more focus on my passion for making tea,
- planning a wedding,
- and trying out new career paths.
This attempt to go back to my social life pre-covid has confirmed there are things I just don’t want to do anymore. I’m 28 years old, and being out in clubs and bars is no longer my cup of tea. I like to be home and play video games or help people launch their businesses. I like going on hikes and enjoying nature. I love art and being able to see it in different formats. I’m realizing that re-entry into life as it was, is impossible, and that is okay. It’s time to try some new approaches and embark on some new adventures.
I may not talk to as many people as I did before, and there is no need to force myself to get to that point. If I get there, great, and if I don’t, that’s fine too. Maybe I’m not there right now because I’m learning all the different ways I’ve changed in the past year.
The woman I know right now no longer allows people to take advantage of her kindness or talents. She’s not as frightened as she was of standing up for herself. She has learned to have empathy without allowing it to overrun her sense of self. She confidently goes forward without knowing what the future really holds. Does she have new flaws? Yes, and she is okay with that.
When you leave something, it doesn’t stand still while you’re gone. It changes and grows or decays until something different has formed. While that’s happening, you are also evolving and becoming a new version of yourself. Sometimes we try to re-enter parts of our life as if life itself doesn’t change. But re-entering something means that whatever was there before has changed. This also means that you are no longer the person you were when you left. Therefore your approach to this part of your life and your perspective about it has to also change.