Finding Happiness in Isolation

How could anyone truly enjoy this?

Each of us are stuck at home, limited in virtually everything we do. Numerous people are dying around the world every day. We are all faced with new ways of life. For some, it is bizarre, something straight out of a science fiction novel. For most, it’s uncomfortable. Yet, for a select few, it is serene.

On the other hand, this life-threatening illness elicits a strong sense of fear among all of us, which presents itself in a lot of different ways: fear of contracting the disease, fear for the wellbeing of loved ones, fear of what tomorrow might (or might not) bring. Many of us are having an exceptionally difficult time dealing with the mortality of this situation, in addition to social distancing, self-quarantine and isolation; these changes are affecting mental health, and they present hopelessness. The COVID-19 pandemic is taking a serious toll on the lives of people around the world. This virus poses negative impacts to all. With so many lives being threatened, friends and family being separated from one another, and normalcy being cancelled, it is difficult to see the good in this situation we all face. Is there any good?

For many introverts, myself included, social distancing and self-quarantine presents “good” that cannot easily be identified by others. Since this pandemic began to affect my personal life, back in early March, I realized the opportunity it set forth. Beforehand, I spent most of my days (and some nights) running around campus, interacting and engaging with new people non-stop. I worked different jobs, in addition to classes and extracurricular activities. Needless to say, it was a lot to handle, even for the most extroverted person. Back in the dorms, despite how much I loved spending time with my roommate, I never felt like I had time to myself. Many people, introverts or otherwise, identify this feeling as a reduction or exhaustion of social energy, or a drain on one’s “social battery”. Every day on campus, my “social battery” started at 10% and drastically decreased throughout the day. I never had any time to recharge.

Now, I am thankful to have my own room at home and a family that understands my need to recharge my “social battery”, or renew the social energy I expend from socializing. Being an introvert does not mean that you are antisocial or shy, despite it being defined by various sources as such. To me, being an introvert means that you are more likely to feel rejuvenated upon spending time alone, rather than in social settings. The introvert community is made up of a variety of people, as no one is 100% introverted or extroverted. As such, it is important to note that everyone (introvert or extrovert) can benefit from alone time, in the same way that everyone can benefit from socialization. Since social distancing began, I found I could “recharge” much easier than before; still, I miss creating new memories with family and friends. I miss what was once considered normal.

Nothing can change the fact that our new “normal” is totally unexpected and unwanted. Still, I encourage readers to see the silver lining amidst the mess this virus produces. One of my very best friends said it best during one of our routine FaceTime calls, “This is the perfect time to get to know yourself.” If you are able to, try to enjoy being in your own company. Try finding out everything you want to about who you are and what makes you unique.

As an introvert, I take time to self-reflect whenever I can, but I understand that it is challenging for others (even some introverts) to do this, especially as social distancing may raise new responsibilities such as balancing childcare, home schooling, and working remotely. A simple recommendation I can provide would be to start off small; take ~5 minutes to notice something new about yourself. Even with all of the time I spend alone, I still discover something new about the person I am. One of my favorite practices is to make lists of “my favorites”. If you’re indecisive like me, the lists tend to be pretty long. Some of the questions I ask myself are: What are your favorite qualities (in yourself? a friend? a significant other?) What words could you use to describe your personality? What are your favorite destinations to visit? Where do you want to travel when it is safe to do so again? What are your favorite stress-relieving activities? What do you need right now that will make you feel at ease? No topic is more significant than the other. I especially like these questions because they allow me to develop a more comprehensive idea of who I am, and remind myself that I can add even more to my lists once this settles.

One thing that helped me get through my difficult days, balancing multiple responsibilities on campus, is understanding that with every challenge conquered comes great strength. If dealing with isolation and social distancing is a challenge, spend time getting to know who you are and embracing it; finding peace in understanding who you are and who you wish to be. Push through feelings of discomfort, and learn to enjoy being alone but not lonely. Putting these ideas into practice may appear exhausting and never-ending, but each of them has value. I am thankful for the alone time I now have, as well as my past experiences stepping outside of my comfort zone on campus. I invite those who might find this time stressful to take an introvert’s perspective and find strength and enjoyment in doing the same.

About the author: Kelsey Brown is a First-Year student at Trinity from the city of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Kelsey finds immense comfort in being surrounded by family and friends, but she especially cherishes spending time alone to reflect and learning to enjoy being in her own company.

Copyrighted by Kelsey Brown. Editorial assistance provided by Beatrice Alicea. This work is part of the “Telling Our Covid Stories” project by the Center for Hartford Engagement and Research (CHER) at Trinity College. 

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