In a matter of a few days, the way in which we interacted with the world and the people around us changed drastically. Back in mid-March, we packed our bags with the uncertainty of seeing each other again this year. Moreover, we international students had to make hard decisions whether we would stay for the sake of our families’ health or catch a last-minute flight without any reassurance of coming back. Everyone, despite the short time frame, weighed all pros and cons of both options. My decision-making process was much simpler and shorter. Going back home and disappearing for an indefinite amount of time? Count me in!
Although the pandemic has not been a pleasant situation for everyone to say the least, one of the main ways I cope with difficulty is by finding humor in what seems like all sadness. After flying back home for the summer, my country completely shut down on that same night. No more impromptu runs to the grocery store, no afternoon gatherings with my high school friends, no afternoon coffee with my relatives and no planned vacation trips. To anyone, being home day and night could resemble imprisonment or a nightmare. For me, it was pure bliss. I finally had a good excuse for not hanging out with people and being guilt-tripped in the process.
Here’s the thing: as an introvert, I have never had the upper hand; far from it. Place an introvert in a community-oriented space like a college campus, and people will assume they’re the quiet weirdos at the back of the class or that they never learned how to have fun. In short, introverts are the mythical creatures whom you’ll see on limited occasions if you’re lucky enough. However, this is not the case anymore. It took a global pandemic for introverts to thrive in life. Wearing face coverings in public places? No problem. Staying at home unless absolutely necessary? We already do that! Avoiding physical contact with other people? Finally no more hugs or awkward handshakes. I don’t know about everyone else, but it feels like we introverts excel at saving people from catching COVID-19.
Guarding myself from the outer world was a piece of cake while being at home. However, the dreaded moment of returning to campus came, and while everyone prayed for normalcy, there I was hoping that masks just became a fashion trend to keep wearing them. With some restrictions still in place, however, being back wasn’t as terrible as expected. I didn’t know how much I needed socially-distanced classrooms and food mobile orders until the pandemic demanded it, and let’s not mention the relief of not having any more crowded indoors events. For extroverted, outgoing individuals, it must be hard to adapt to these changes. For fellow introverts like me, feels like we already belong here.
Among the downsides of COVID-19, there are snippets of this change in routine that bring me comfort. For instance, avoiding small talk in the hallway has become substantially easier when one can just pretend they didn’t recognize people with masks on. Having group dinners is not a cause for anxiety anymore, as the Caf looks more like a corny spot for Christian dates than a communal space for group talk. The only negative outcomes I can think of at this point are foggy glasses, Zoom meetings and incessant COVID-19 updates on my inbox. Nevertheless, it didn’t take much to adapt to the new normal. In contrast to extroverts, we feel more revitalized and motivated with this change. Maybe being an introvert does have its perks after all—it just took the world falling apart for us to realize.