On introversion: Why I haven’t left my home in 12 days

Jamila Dawkins | Contributing Writer

On March 11, the Chancellor announced that Wash. U. would be moving to online classes. I haven’t left my house since then—about 12 days.

Our recent national focus on social distancing has spurred chaos among extroverts and glee among introverts. Homebodies gloat on Twitter about how they “were social distancing before it was cool” while socialites mourn their lost connections and throw themselves into a parade of endless Skype calls.

What does introversion mean under this new world order? What does it look like? When does distancing become seclusion, and how can we walk the line between vitally important distance and unhealthy isolation?

As an introvert, this period of distancing—while catalyzed by a devastating global pandemic— felt like an opportunity, something within which I could find a silver lining. I take issue with the characterization of introverts as monolithic and antisocial, but I admit I found it much easier than my extroverted peers to keep to myself. It’s important, introvert or not, to find time to check in with yourself, to spend time with yourself, to be in a quiet room without pressure to fill it up with noise. The extension of spring break and postponement and cancellation of many of my commitments gave me time to do this. An upside in an upside-down world.

Feeling energized from time spent alone, though, can be a double edged sword. I was washing my hands. I wasn’t touching anyone. I wasn’t putting anyone else in danger. But I also wasn’t talking to anyone. I wasn’t leaving my room, or my house—even for a breath of fresh air or a short walk. One day I was surprised to learn that it had been snowing all day and I hadn’t known it; one night I went to bed with the realization that I had spoken about four times all day.

It wasn’t intentional. It happened little by little, I think, my sinking into solitude. I was (and am) resolved to social distancing, and wanted to do my part. My being isolated for so long, though—much of which was spent alone in my room—wasn’t in that vein of civic duty. It was a demonstration of how easy it can be to neglect mental health when the rigid routines that surround you, that keep you upright, crumble.

The current emphasis on health isn’t limited to hygiene. It’s more important than ever that we take care of the most vulnerable in our communities—the elderly, the sick, the immunocompromised and immunosuppressed—and the best way to do that is by taking care of ourselves. This means not partying with all your high school buddies and recounting the glory days. This also means not locking yourself in your room for 12 days and allowing yourself to spend some time exercising, FaceTiming with friends, looking out the window, enjoying fresh air.

Those of us who are lucky enough to be social distancing—that is, healthy enough to practice distance where others have to practice self-quarantine and isolation—have already made the decision to take care of others. Don’t forget to do the same for yourself.

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