The big event that marked my reentry into society after over a year at home was a birthday party at an outdoor brewery. A large group of us gathered in the afternoon, sat in the sun all day, and then headed back to the host's apartment to hang out some more. We didn't leave until the sun went down, and as much fun as I'd had, by the end of it, I was exhausted and ready to go home. Once home, I sat on my couch in a stupor and ordered ice cream to soothe my throat, which was sore from hours of talking.
It was an unexpected moment for me. I had been so excited to get back into the social swing of things, to start penciling plans into my calendar, but I hadn't anticipated I would feel this exhaustion. In college, I was one of those people who thought — key word thought — they loved being busy. I worked a handful of internships, held down leadership positions, and took a full credit load, all while maintaining an active student's social life. Rarely, if ever, do I recall having free time, and what little I had, I quickly filled. That was the barometer I used to measure how dull my life felt during the pandemic, and that was the level of activity I imagined I'd return to when it was over.
As soon as I was fully vaccinated, I scheduled several packed weekends that left me completely wiped out. Clearly, I'd overcorrected. As an extrovert, I had desperately craved human interaction during lockdown. At low points, I would walk to my local Starbucks and order at the counter, just to talk to another human being. But as I jumped into the deep end of post-vaccination socialization, I realized that I actually don't like rushing from activity to activity, with only enough transition time to stop at home to change clothes and scarf down a granola bar. I want time after events to process the experience and be grateful for it. The busyness that I had once thought of as my social stamina was really just rushing around in a frenzy of activity and never giving myself a chance to process anything.
Amid the flurry of plans, I have begun looking forward to the quiet nights at home that I'd once dreaded. Whereas prepandemic me would make one or two plans a day, one or two plans a weekend is now plenty. The pandemic has been a major and necessary reset for me. I've finally learned to enjoy the balance of alone time and time with friends. I have come to understand that my schedule is my own and that just because my Saturday afternoon is free, it doesn't mean I have to offer it up to someone else. I enjoyed the me that I'd spent so much time with throughout lockdown, and I finally understand that it is OK to set aside time that is exclusively for myself.