An introvert’s drug

(Note: this was written a week and a half ago, and published late, because I’m a procrastinator.)

“Shrooms are an introvert’s drug,” I said on a recent psychedelic trip with my boyfriend and his roommates, the words floating out of my mouth as I watched the colors burst on the sidewalk in a dazed fascination. “It forces you inside your own head, and if you’re an introvert that’s a place you’re already familiar with.”

There’s something about self-isolation that feels like one long shrooms trip (without the pretty colors and that incredible sensation you get from just breathing). There are long periods of zoning out, letting your mind wander and glide from one place to another, not finishing a thought before it moves on to the next. There are the little delights of noticing something that’s always been there, like a small crack in a wooden door that’s suddenly amazing. There is the amplification of your own inner voice, its transition from a numb whisper to something loud and palpable. Being isolated for a long period of time will intensify these things, which is what makes people feel like they’re going crazy.

Introverts are already familiar with this.

It’s my first weekend back in my own home after being at my boyfriend’s place, and while I love him and I got along well with his roommates, the solitude has been wonderful. I’m remembering that even before quarantine, I could spend such long periods of time on my own without boring myself — whereas time spent in a social setting could often and quickly become boring or exhausting. My lifelong introversion seems to be an innate trait, built from the endless hours I spent buried in books as a child and reinforced by having strict parents and living in a remote suburb in a small town. Over the years I came to enjoy things like parties and concerts and eating out with friends, but these have remained secondary. When the freedom to do these things has been taken away from me, I hardly feel the loss.

There are many aspects of quarantine that feel incredibly validating. The difference between a solitary weekend then and a solitary weekend now is the complete lack of obligation. This time, I’m not turning down any invitations, I didn’t bail on any plans, I’m not missing out on anything because nothing is happening. This, my friends, is a different kind of liberation.

Sometimes I will accept an invitation. A few weeks ago, I tuned in to a virtual “concert” that featured musicians livestreaming their sets from their own homes. Some people I knew were in the audience and posting reactions and responses in a group chat. There were technical difficulties. There was the awkward absence of clapping and cheers. And then there was me, wrapped up cozy in a blanket, in my pajamas, with a glass of wine, staring at a laptop screen. No one could possibly kid themselves that this would ever replicate a real concert experience. But it was still live music, and it was beautiful, and I soon realized what was missing: the dissonant feeling of being in a physical space not my own, the self-consciousness of mingling amongst strangers, the uncomfortable obligation to socialize with friends, buying drink after drink to calm the anxiety. Just me, and the music that seemed to be playing just for me. This, my friends, is a different kind of euphoria. 

I almost feel guilty about finding silver linings in a time like this. I do miss my friends and being able to attend real concerts with real crowds. I am not a total recluse, and I’m aware that as time goes on the isolation will crawl under my skin and get trapped there. I’m already sad about the experiences I’ve missed — the parties, the birthdays, time with my family. But in these past few days I’ve discovered that I can do more than simply “make do” — I can thrive.

I’m still anxious about the state of the world, but I’m happy to know that, while I wait for it all to be over, I can settle in and be comfortable with my own company. And these days, comfort seems to be all we can hope for.

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