Lockdown turned me into an introvert and I’m never going back

Sarah Barratt
Photo credit: Country Living|Getty

From Country Living

In March, with a national lockdown looming, I headed for the hills. Literally. Fleeing the four walls of my shared flat in South London, I threw myself on the mercy of my mum and dad. I didn’t realise how much I craved solitude until I arrived in their Somerset village, but have spent these past months in splendid isolation.

What one might call a ‘young professional’, it’s extraordinary how quickly I retreated back to my childhood self after returning to the family home. While everyone was doing Zoom quizzes and mastering the art of sourdough, I was busy being antisocial – rediscovering my inner introvert, and realising I actually quite like her. Really, she’d always been there. She is ultimately me, after all. She was the girl who hid under the bed every time anyone knocked on the door and went beetroot if a boy so much as looked at her (still do, if I’m honest).

But as she got older, I challenged her to be less withdrawn. I told her she wouldn’t get very far in life hiding under a bed. I made her move to London and get a job. I pushed her far out of her comfort zone until she was to all intents and purposes transformed into an extrovert. Tah dah!

Until 23rd March 2020, life was hectic and heavily peopled. Office by day, events by night. Always rushing around, always late. In a way, I equated being busy with living a full and happy life. If I didn’t suffuse every second with something, surely I’d be lonely?

But being alone doesn’t always equate to being lonely. Of course, it can certainly be a catalyst. Ironically, my most profound experience of loneliness occurred when I moved to London – a city of almost nine million. I was never alone and yet I’ve never felt more isolated. Having come from England’s green and pleasant land, the city felt overwhelming and unwelcoming. There were people everywhere, but I couldn’t speak to any of them. Everybody had a purpose, except me.

Photo credit: Malte Mueller - Getty Images

Villages are secluded by their very nature and yet I feel less alone when I’m in one – surrounded by trees and fields, instead of four walls. It’s the kind of solitude that feels liberating instead of suffocating. Far from the madding crowd. Having said all that, I don’t want to romanticise rural life. I know that for so many people the countryside is starkly lonely. For farmers working alone all day, oldies whose loved ones have moved away, and teenagers trapped at home with (god forbid) their parents – the isolation can feel oppressive.

But for the last few months, I've quite enjoyed being a 27-year-old teenager, living out lockdown in the hotel of mum and dad. I’d give it three stars and suggest they get a new cook, but it's been refreshing to cut myself off from the commotion of city life. Sleeping in my old room, I've revisited the person I was before I grew up. She enjoyed solitude. Needed it, in fact. Extroverts become enlivened in crowds, but introverts re-energise when alone. And re-energise I have – months of near solitude have turned me into the Duracell bunny.

Without the distractions of meetings and meet-ups, I've read books, run, written and taken stock of my life’s components, deciding what I want to keep, and what can be cast away. I realise now how important it was for me to have a sense of in-built happiness, to be my own friend. Relying completely on external sources can ironically make me lonelier, because as soon as they’re gone, I feel bereft. I think it’s healthy for me to exercise aloneness from time to time – to prove I’m enough as I am.

Tempting though it may be, I won’t become a complete recluse, but competitive busyness and a booked-up diary are out. Really, I’m neither an introvert nor an extrovert (nor a Duracell bunny) but an overindulged pet cat – craving human affection but also demanding her own space. During my months of introversion, it's been nice to pull the old me out from under the bed and get to know her again.

More on loneliness:

Like this article? Sign up to our newsletter to get more articles like this delivered straight to your inbox.

SIGN UP


You Might Also Like