Those who know me may find it hard to believe, but I am an introvert by nature. While I can do the extrovert thing when in a social setting it is a conscious effort to enjoy the occasion and make the most of spending time with people. Often, after something like a convention where you need to be “on”, I am exhausted and need to recharge for a few days.
Growing up near a small country town where the few people my age were not exactly just down the street when you felt like dropping by, in those primitive times before the internet and more than two TV channels (gasp!), meant learning to find entertainment for yourself wherever you could. For me it was books, reading them or imagining I was living in them.
The paddocks around us became Middle Earth or Narnia, inhabited by elves or fauns, while Tripods lurked behind powerlines or Triffids in amongst gumtrees, forcing you to find ways to get to places without ever letting yourself be caught out in the open.
That may well be why I grew up to be the geek that I am, but it also means I am quite content when I have to spend time on my own—if I ever go to jail, I’d be finding ways to be put in solitary, it would be far more preferable than any of the other options I can think of to serve out your time!
But, the past year or so has taught me something new about myself and revealed that I had gotten some of the things I had taken for granted about being an introvert completely wrong. I had made assumptions about what I could do without and didn’t actually need, not realising they had simply never been tested.
Like a rock climber who made it to the top without losing his grip thinking he was free climber just because he hadn’t needed his safety harness—until one day his fingers started to slip and he realised the rocks below look different when it is gone. That’s when he knows his assumption about not needing it is right or wrong.
You know what assume does....
I always assumed that, while I enjoyed social interaction and could be extroverted when needed, it wasn’t something essential for me, that if the option of social interaction was restricted for some reason and I was forced to live without it (like solitary! Desert island! Solo mission to Mars), I would not only cope, but thrive, for as long as I had to. I didn't realise that while I thought I had already experienced that and could deal with it again, I discovered—like the harness—choosing to do without something is very different than having the option taken away.
Even though I was still far better off than many people, like those completely isolated or trapped in a bad situation, working night shift meant that I could go days or weeks without talking to anyone outside my very immediate circle—no Zoom meetings stay connected with my team and usually sleeping when my friends were awake and available for a chat, and vice versa.
Learning my lessons
As the lockdown dragged on, I was surprised by how much all the restrictions were getting to me, and the extent that I found myself hanging on every announcement and how much hope I was pinning on each milestone date that things would change. I would have thought I’d find it easier to adapt to this new way of life than most people and that I could happily in my own little world as long as I needed to.
There are two lessons I’ve taken from this period. The first may be obvious—so obvious there’s a hit song about it—but sometimes you really don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone. Never again will I fail to appreciate the social network I have been fortunate enough o build up during my life.
The second lesson is that we all need people, we all need connections, even if it’s not all the time. We shouldn’t take the ones we have for granted, but instead, put in the work they deserve. And, we should be mindful of those around us who might be lacking—the ill, the elderly, the lonely, and those whose lives have left them cold.
Especially in times like we have just experienced, we can all be there for another, and we should.
David Goodwin is the former Editor of The Salvation Army’s magazine,War Cry. He is also a cricket tragic, and an unapologetic geek.
David Goodwin archive of articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/david-goodwin.html