The operative word here is “groups”! We are meant to interact with other people all the time, and most activities of note are arranged around the idea that they need to be done in groups that balance a level of competition with a sense of belonging: sports, business, quizzes, going to the pub/club/bar, going on holiday to a popular resort (dancing, boozing, lying in long lines next to each other on the beach)… almost all those activities are group activities. Even simple things like walks in the forest have become group activities that need to be organised and coordinated to make them into an event.
That is all fine and well for those people who thrive in groups, but not so much for those who don’t. Many prefer a more intimate setting: sharing a cup of tea with one friend on a quiet balcony, or sitting somewhere listening to the sounds of a little brook in the woods, or enjoying a board game with one or two friends. These activities can be just as exciting and rewarding to such people as is going to a concert to the ‘group enthusiasts’.
Covid-19 has done us quiet ones, the singletons, a huge favour: it was finally possible to thrive in an environment that suits us. I have often mentioned that the last year, for the first time in my life, I felt that I could be me without having to bend over backwards to fit in and participate in environments (noisy, crowded, in too large a group of people) that made me feel uncomfortable. The fact that we were all somewhat isolated helped the likes of me. I never had as many conversations with friends and acquaintances than in the past 12 months! Yes: they may have been zoom calls, but ultimately they were no different than seeing someone in a socially distanced situation.
The important thing here is that it felt that finally everyone else had to bend over backwards to fit into a way of doing things that suited ME for a change. I much prefer staying indoors, and would love for this state of affairs to go on. But I also realise that staying indoors will not be an option for much longer.
There were downsides to this as well, of course: I for one now have to learn to bring up my defences again in order to brave even the smallest clutch of people in the street – they make me deeply uncomfortable. The long-term fallout is still unclear, but I’ll have to make some tough choices to keep myself safe going forward. If the above describes you in some way, or touches a raw nerve: know that you are not alone with this. We all have to find the best way forward and out of this place of content, a comfort zone of an entirely new and unprecedented kind. It may feel wonderful to stick to this place of serenity, where interactions with other people don’t immediately make you cringe, but ultimately there may be ways to preserve at least some of the freedom you have won through staying on your own for a while.
It’s down to each of us separately to find the right things to hang on to and make sure you can.
These are my own thoughts on aspects of my work I feel strongly about.