I think I’ve forgotten whatever social skills I once had – and I’ve always been an introvert, always the kind of person who heads straight to the bar immediately upon arriving at any large social gathering because I need a glass of wine before I can even handle my social anxiety (no, this is not a healthy coping strategy, but it’s the truth).
But it’s been so long since I’ve been around anyone but my husband and kids that I don’t think I’m capable of casual break room or party chit-chat anymore.
“Oh, someone was telling me this was a great show …” I said to my husband as we flipped thorough Netflix the other day.
“Me,” he said. “That was me. I was telling you about this show.”
“Ah, yeah, that makes sense, actually,” I said, “given that I don’t interact with any other adults besides you, really.”
My kids and I, meanwhile, now converse in a weird private language made up of inside jokes, memes, and movie quotes, and all of us talk to the dog as though he’s a human.
It’s been more than six months now since any of us regularly socialized with anyone outside of our family face-to-face, and now, with schools resuming in-person instruction and more and more people getting back to their normal lives, I’m feeling more lost than ever.
My dad, you might recall, was hospitalized for a week with double pneumonia, from March 27 to April 3. He is doing better now, but at age 82, he is definitely high-risk. And I, as his only surviving child, am his sole caregiver.
This responsibility means that my kids aren’t going back to in-person school anytime soon. If I can, I’m going to keep working remotely (and if I do go back to my office, I’m staying in my office with the door closed).
But I’m watching people go back to pre-COVID life – parties, classrooms, church services, restaurants – and I don’t even know what to feel. Am I the crazy one? Are they?
I don’t like this life; even for someone as socially awkward as I am, it’s hard not seeing my friends, my coworkers, my students. I just had a milestone 40th birthday, and while it was lovely with just my immediate family, I was still sort of sad that I couldn’t have an actual party. And yet even pictures of crowded spaces now fill me with anxiety, and the riskiest thing I’ve done lately was venture out to the pharmacy.
Have you gotten back to your old life yet? Are you easing into it? Are you anxious?