I have heard quite a few of my introverted friends (including my wife) talk about how adapting to life in the COVID-19 pandemic hasn’t been that hard for them. I, on the other hand, am an extrovert, and this life we’re forced to live now is ridiculously difficult for me.
Stacy and I got our first vaccine last week, with the second scheduled for mid-April. The end of this awful experience is beginning to come into view for all of us. In anticipation of that day, I made this list of the top 10 things I plan to do when the pandemic is over.
No. 1: Visit family.
None of my immediate family is living, so I’ve adopted Miz Jackie, Stacy’s mother, as my family. I think she’s adopted me, too. And we might be able to go spend a weekend cooking and lazing around with her as soon as early May. Without masks! For more than a year now, I’ve missed the cozy feeling and homey smells of her house. We used visit her all the time, and the anticipation doing it again makes me as happy as all get-out. I can’t wait.
No. 2: Hug people.
I’m a big hugger. One of those people who will actually hug somebody I’ve just met. Now, I realize my bias toward the physical feelings of a good hug has probably annoyed a few introverts along the way, but I’m just like that. I want everyone I meet to feel welcomed into my life. Let me know where you live, and I’ll come hug you, too.
No. 3: Eat in restaurants. With friends!
No. 4: Browse my favorite bookstore.
My favorite bookshop in the whole world is called A Cappella Books. It’s run by one of my oldest friends, Frank Reiss. I was there the day he opened it decades ago, and I’ll be back inside as soon as he can open it again. Since the pandemic started, all the employees of A Cappella have turned their attention to orders that they will deliver to customers who live within about a 10-mile radius, or who will come by to pick up their order outside. But I miss the inside desperately. I miss browsing thousands of books on shelves that almost reach the ceiling. I miss its familiar, musty smell. Conversations in that store have turned me on to some of the best books I’ve ever read. I want to have those conversations again.
No. 5: Stop worrying about passersby.
Early in the pandemic, I was talking to the associate rector of our church, and she said, “I wonder how having to keep so much distance between yourself and other people is going to affect human interaction for a long time.” Will we keep avoiding eye contact after the pandemic? Will we say hello less often? I had not thought about that before. But how often have you noticed yourself taking a wide berth around other people in the grocery store? I do it a lot. I’d rather go back to the days when a fellow shopper and I could stick our heads into the same ice-cream freezer and worry only about whether we could each snag our favorite flavor.
No. 6: Holidays with family.
The holidays are Miz Jackie’s house are wonderful. I love to watch her set the table with her good china, crystal, and silver. Miz Jackie and I always cook together when we’re there, and for Thanksgiving and Christmas, we bring out the big guns in pursuit of the most perfectly cooked turkey possible. Side dishes, too. Glazed carrots, dressing, all the fixings. We get a lot of Stacy’s dishtowels dirty, making memories with them. You don’t know how much you miss that kitchen togetherness until you lose it. This year, we’ll have it again. I’m gonna eat until I’m slap full, and then lodge myself in Miz Jackie’s recliner. Stacy won’t let me have a recliner at home. Pfft!
No. 7: Visitors.
You could count the number of visitors to our house during the pandemic on one hand. And those visits have always included masks, they have all occurred out in the backyard, and we’re always situated a safe six feet away from our guests. Before this started, we could count on a visit from Stacy’s two teenage stepdaughters every few weeks. I can’t believe how much I miss their chatter over the dining room table. And it’s been entirely too long since I’ve uttered the phrase, “Why don’t y’all come over this afternoon and hang out for a while?” When this pandemic is over, y’all can drop by anytime. We’ve missed you.
No. 8: Live music
Put me in the middle of a jam-packed nightclub, watching one of my favorite bands, and you’ve put me in heaven. I don’t care about the crappy smell of stale, spilled beer on the floor. I don’t care if the bathroom walls are covered in graffiti. What I care about is the magic, that special feeling that blooms in the emotional interplay between a band and its audience, a magic that can’t be recreated in any other venue. I miss my share of that magic.
No. 9: Vacations
I know a lot of people who took vacations during the pandemic, renting houses on Airbnb, a few even checking into hotels. Maybe we were being too paranoid (and who hasn’t been this year?), but to Stacy and me, the uncertainties always seemed a little too daunting. And isn’t striking up conversations with complete strangers one of the joys that comes with any vacation? We’re waiting for a vacation where we can feel absolutely free to mingle. When the pandemic hit, we had to cancel a planned vacation to see our friends in Lousiana’s Cajun country at their little artists’ retreat called Bonne Terre. But as soon as it’s possible, we’ll rebook that trip. And in the meantime, we’ll just enjoy watching their Instagram feed, which is full of a particularly Southern brand of serenity.
No. 10: Not having to check my pocket for a mask every time I leave the house.
Dear lord, what we’ve been through around the question of masks. Which kinds are safe? Do you need to wear two? Does your mask need to be of KN95 grade, or will a simple fabric mask do? The masks that Stacy makes and sells are very comfortable, but I can’t wait to stop wearing them.
Writing this, I began to see common threads — how much I missed human contact and communion without restriction and how deeply I’ve felt the sensory deprivation that came with being unable to leave home and go anywhere I pleased. Now that I can allow myself to think that this pandemic could effectively be over by the end of the year, it feels like I’m breathing fresh air for the first time in a long while.
Leave us a comment about what you look forward to after the pandemic has passed.