During the lockdown/quarantine of 2020, people started sharing memes like “Avoiding people? I’ve been preparing this moment my whole life!” Most people who I saw that shared it, I rolled my eyes. Fake introverts, I joked. Those are people who are always going out and engaging with people. Me? I really have been preparing for this my whole life. Why don’t I really go out on date nights? Because I’d much rather just stay at home with my family and dogs. I don’t mind just being alone with my dogs because I like my dogs more than I like most people. I have friends and family that I cherish, but I’m not someone who really enjoys being out where there are too many people. Maybe it’s the sensory overload that my youngest suffers from. Maybe it’s just extreme social anxiety. Who knows?
I have crafted my life around not being a people person. I work from home and only take jobs where I can just get emails to get my work and then just do my work and give it back to them. I don’t particularly enjoy engaging on the phone. The only engagement I really enjoy “work-wise” was streaming, which hopefully can start again after the kids ship off back to school. But that’s one-sided engagement. That’s engagement I initiate on my own terms. I’m not really a type-A personality. I float somewhere in the middle of the spectrum where I know when to take control and when to concede. Going out to the grocery store? Nightmare for me. People do stupid things and I roll my eyes or make snide commentary that my husband glares at me for. Not because he disagrees with what I said; but because some things are better left in the brain. Hilariously, my knack for just saying what people are thinking but don’t want to say is one of my biggest selling points in the relationship. He even shared with me a hilarious meme: “Quiet boys, why do you like the loud mouth women? Quiet boys: Because someone needs to tell the waitress I ordered mash potatoes and it’s not going to be me.” Him and my oldest son just looked at me like “Sound familiar?”
I do know restraint and can practice it like an art. I know how to put on a show of being a people person, being a charming and witty presence when I need to. It’s exhausting work pretending to tolerate people while you envision something happening to them, like punching them in the face. I even managed to not make fun of this person who was talking on his speaker phone at the grocery store so loudly that you could hear him across the store. That doesn’t mean I always care to do this. I cannot control my facial expressions, such as my eye roll of disdain or my eyebrows shooting up when I think someone is being ridiculous. At least when it comes to cold and flu season and I start sporting the masks again, I can help hide some of these tells.
Is my preference for isolation healthy? Probably not. I’m sure the couch therapists are reading this and have a thorough diagnosis of my mental health issues. But solitude gives me strength. Not having obligations outside of the house helped me to lose nearly 60 lbs. I was happier because I didn’t have to worry about my period problems affecting my schedule because I couldn’t go and do anything anyways. I socialized with my friends through texts, short meetings when one of my besties would drop off the school meals for me, and even a Zoom girls night. I enjoyed being selective in my activities. But I got to stay home with my boys and dogs and that was perfect for me. And I think that’s OK. I think pretending to be something that you’re not isn’t OK, especially when you do it just because of societal expectations. But I’m just going to be me, the person who thinks places are just “too people-y”. The selective recluse.