Afterthoughts: How a Global Pandemic Connected Us More Than Ever
My new normal.
For a lot of introverts, the mandatory stay-at-home order by Gov. David Ige seemed like a blessing. Not only could we skip the emotionally draining toll of everyday life outside the comfort of our homes, we could save lives by doing so. It’s a common misconception that introverts are shy or that we hate going out—it’s more that being alone is what recharges us after a day of interacting with others. So I relished the first few days of #quarantinelife. I started waking up after sunrise. My commute dropped from an hour each way to about 4 seconds, giving me more time to sew and read. I did my nails for the first time in more than a year. I lived in pajamas and sometimes workout gear that I thought would guilt me into going for a walk (it even worked a few times).
But it wasn’t long before my phone started blowing up. Co-workers called to say how much they missed human contact, turning quick check-ins into hourlong conversations. Friends wanted to video chat over lunch. Instagram notified me whenever a musician I follow went live to play a few songs from home and talk with fans. I didn’t realize how many people would feel tortured and lonely by what I saw as an opportunity for self-care and enjoying the great indoors. (I also don’t have kids, which makes a big difference.)
illustration: getty images
So, after a few days of settling into my new routine, I began to reach out. Texts to friends in Seattle, Boston and New York City—people I haven’t texted in months—checking on their situations. Watching Love Is Blind through Netflix Party so my co-workers and I could cheer for our favorite couples and put ourselves in their shoes. Designated pau hana nights where we could grab a drink, catch up and play online games like Pictionary. Especially with so many of my friends moving to the Mainland in recent years, it was a great way to reconnect and hang out. We had always meant to but never found the time. And I realized I really did miss being social after spending more than three days in a row without stepping foot outside.
It’s inspiring to see how the community is coming together, too. Nonprofits are delivering meals to kūpuna for free. The Hawai‘i Farm Bureau partnered with the city to offer curbside pickup of fresh local products at no additional cost to farmers and ranchers through their Farm to Car initiative. Central Pacific Bank partially reimbursed customers who ordered takeout to make it more affordable. My entire Facebook feed consists of people sharing lists of restaurants that have takeout and delivery options. HONOLULU also pulled together many local designers for a promotion that offered discounts or free shipping to encourage everyone to shop local. Every little bit helps, and the more we figure out how to navigate this strange new world, the better prepared we’ll be to tackle adversity in the future.
We know the past few months have been rough on our whole community, here and globally: people losing jobs, health and loved ones. And I’m very thankful that, for the time being, my biggest challenge is working from home with a 9-year-old laptop. It can be frustrating not knowing why someone isn’t responding to my emails or texts because I can’t see what they’re doing. We have fewer face-to-face chats, but that makes the ones we do have all the more valuable. My boss even called a mandatory video meeting with the team to sing me happy birthday. Out of sync and on the wrong day, but it’s the thought that counts. Now more than ever.