I’m Actually ‘Hanging Out’ With My Friends More During Isolation 

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mother and daughter taking selfie in living room
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I have to admit, when this pandemic started, I didn’t recognize myself. While I’ve always been an ambivert, I went into introvert mode really fast.

If the phone rang, I couldn’t pick it up. When my mom sent a text to see how I was doing, I struggled to answer it. My friends wanted to have Zoom calls and I had to dig deep in order to commit. Then I’d end up opting out altogether.

I felt like I didn’t have anything to say and that I needed to save all my energy to focus on work, homeschooling my kids, and keeping the house somewhat tidy.

It all changed a few weeks ago after a bunch of my friends sprung a Zoom meeting on me. I wasn’t wearing pants, I’d already poured a glass of wine, and my hair was looking fab for the first time since lockdown. Hell yeah, I’ll join in.

As we were sitting there sipping and laughing, I realized I hadn’t laughed that hard for weeks, and one of the big reasons why I was feeling so glum was because I’d gone from connecting with friends pretty regularly to not at all.

That was a turning point for me. And now, my social life is busier than it was pre-pandemic.

I mean, it makes sense. Wearing cozy clothes and not having to leave my house makes it way easier to have a girls’ night. We don’t have to stress about finding a seat at our favorite restaurant, nor do we have to keep an eye on the budget, so the night can last as long as we want.

You can attend a game night through Hangouts and no one has to host or worry about cleaning up.

You know when you start a chat that you can leave whenever you want and you don’t have to feel bad about it because you didn’t put the energy into traveling to a different location — the location is home sweet home. And, hello, no Uber calls or having to be the designated driver. If you get tipsy, all you have to worry about is walking to your bed safely.

Many are of us are craving connection more than ever because so much of the little gestures that used to bring us little doses of joy are gone. I never realized how an appointment at the hairdresser, or simply being able to stop and chat with people at the grocery store gave me a dose of connection. It’s a way we feed our mental health, and a lot of us didn’t realize it until it was taken away from us. I certainly didn’t.

Every Friday night, I join a happy hour regardless of how tired I am because I literally don’t have to do anything but open my computer. Tuesday nights are dedicated to talking with my friends over Zoom. Sometimes we make dinner and eat, sometimes we sip wine, sometimes we just talk non-stop. It doesn’t matter though, because those two hours of connection are more concentrated than if we were gathered at a bar or restaurant with other distractions. Saturday evenings are dedicated to talking to a large group which includes my boyfriend and his friends. It’s been a great way for us to change up date night.

I’m talking on the phone more than I have since the ‘90s. I want to hear my friends’ and family’s voices; I want to know how they are doing mentally — something you can’t always gauge through texting.

I have several friends I text with daily, something we didn’t do before the stay-at-home order. It’s not just because we have more time on our hands either — it’s because there is so much comfort in reaching out to someone who is going through a lot of the same stuff you are day after day.

Our nerves are shot, we can only watch so much television, and we are staying in the same four walls day in and day out. This is a way for everyone to shake up their days a bit, add variety, and stay in touch, which is one of the few things we can count on right now. With extracurricular activities and all the other things that normally keep us busy on hold, we have time to reconnect with the people who matter — time to actually get to those calls and (virtual) hangouts we’re always swearing we’re going to get to and then not doing it. Life is no longer getting in the way, and it’s been eye-opening.

Physical isolation is incredibly hard, but social isolation is harder. Humans, even introverts, crave a certain amount of connection, and COVID-19 is teaching us just how much talking and seeing a familiar face can brighten our days.

Not to mention it’s so much easier to find the time to sit and have a video chat because we aren’t rushing off anywhere. And I don’t think any of us hate the fact that we don’t have to put on a bra or mascara to hang out these days.

Yes, I will be excited to order drinks and appetizers with my friends again. And I can’t wait to take my kids out for pizza. But until I can, I’m going to enjoy the fact I’ve been connecting with the people I love the most more than I ever have before.

In the darkness of this horrible thing that’s happening, there is some light — and it comes in the form of being able to easily connect with each other. All you have to do is open your laptop, hit the FaceTime button, or just have a phone conversation like you’re in junior high again.

In fact, I want to keep these meetings going even when things start going back to normal, partly because I know “normal” will be a gradual process, but mostly because COVID-19 has taught me how much I value the people I have in my life. I don’t need another pandemic to remind me to put energy into these relationships.

I’m getting so much out of it. My only regret is that I waited so long to take advantage of all the things I can do to connect with those who mean the most to me.

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