An Extrovert During a Pandemic

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“I’m going to miss not being able to use COVID-19 as an excuse to cancel plans. I have gotten really comfortable being alone.”

Over the seventeen months, we have heard this sentiment a lot. The positive reframe is that the pandemic helped us slow down and refocus on ourselves. This is the Age of the Introvert. Without social pressure to constantly interact with others, introverts have been able to stay home guilt-free. Ambiverts have also done okay. Ambiverts generally enjoy limited social interactions in small settings. Dinner with a friend once a week is enough for them. 

And then there are people like me and my husband. My husband is the friendliest person in the world. This past weekend Jeff showed the TSA agent at the airport footage of our four-year-old’s golf swing. Although I’m not as friendly to strangers as Jeff is, I am also an extreme extrovert. Extroverts are energized through interactions with others. I am fueled by people. Even when I’m alone, I spend time thinking about and planning interactions with others. I scheme about how I can foster a budding friendship. I plan dinner parties, wonder which of my friends I can introduce to each other, miss friends I haven’t seen in awhile.

From March – July of 2020 my husband worked outside of the home while I worked from home while simultaneously caring for the kids. I didn’t interact with anyone outside of my family for months. I felt like an incomplete human. I felt mind-numbingly, desperately lonely.

I have heard friends of mine, introverts and ambiverts, talk about the difficulty of re-emerging into society as the Great Reopening begins. Folks talk about “taking it one step at a time” and maybe not being ready to re-emerge. Not just because of the continued through of COVID-19. Introverts have found the lack of societal pressure to socialize helpful to their emotional wellbeing.

These sentiments about going slow, about not being ready to socialize again are absolutely inconceivable to me. The ONLY thing that holds me back from throwing a 200 person house party every Saturday of my life is a global pandemic (that and maybe the rug cleaning bill.) 

In non-pandemic times, we exist in The Time of The Extrovert. Eventually (we hope) this will be an extrovert’s world once again. What have I learned?

A few months into the pandemic, I told my sister. “You know what I miss so much it hurts? I want to walk across a crowded bar holding drinks. I want to accidentally bump into someone and spill some of my drink. Then I want her to turn around and say, ‘oh my god I’m so sorry!’ And I want her to reply, ‘no worries!’”

Moments of human connection fill me with energy. During the early months of the pandemic I suggested to my husband that we pretend to be other people and we actually entertained this suggestion. “I just want to have a conversation with a stranger. That’s all I want.”

During this pandemic I have learned this about myself. I don’t need alone time. I don’t feel stressed by constant societal pressures to socialize. I need to be with people. The only thing more depressing to me than an empty city street is when the word “virtual” is added to the front of something. These are tough years to be an extrovert. 

The moments that have meant the most to me are these:

  • That time I was riding the MUNI train and a car was parked over the tracks so a group of passengers worked together to pick up and move the car off the tracks so the train could go again.
  • Impulsively starting a conga line at The Tonga Room.
  • Watching the Hunky Jesus contest in Golden Gate Park.

These are the moments that fill my bucket. This is what gives me energy. And now I know. Everyday of my life that doesn’t take place during a global pandemic, this is what I will seek out. Random human connection, however small, however short and petty. 

And not over Zoom.

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Michelle Kaye is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and mother of two children. She holds a post-graduate certificate in infant-parent mental health. Michelle lives in Pacifica and works as a Clinical Director at a nonprofit in San Francisco. She recently published a humorous parenting book titled Better Than Good Enough that can be found online at https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/57565793-better-than-good-enough?ac=1&from_search=true&qid=oHygnAZ8Wb&rank=1.

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