Learning To Socialize Again

Two years of Covid semi-isolation has been a mixed blessing. I have enjoyed feeling safe and secure but also felt myself become increasingly agoraphobic. The long Edmonton winters and icy sidewalks made it difficult to get out for walks, and my social life was reduced to visits with my immediate family and increasingly rare meetups with a few friends.

Free public domain CC0 image via rawpixel.

As a consequence of all of this, I began to be very anxious about social interactions of all kinds. This nervousness reached its zenith after I moved to Nanaimo. Some kind friends invited me to their home but after a short visit I began to feel something like stage fright. It was a mixture of a sort of imposter syndrome and an urge to leave. I can’t really explain it because they are lovely people and were making me very welcome.

Then, a couple of weeks ago, I was invited by a neighbour to an informal outdoor Friday night gathering in the garden of our building. “Just bring something to drink and something to sit on,” I was told. I really wanted to attend, but I didn’t have a folding lawn chair to bring, and I didn’t have anything to drink that was in a can or small bottle. Two stores that I went to to try to buy a lawn chair were sold out. Eventually, I did find one in a third store and bought it, but I left it in my car in the underground garage.

image via Wikimedia

As the time for the meetup approached, I argued with myself about what to wear, whether or not to go to the garage to get the chair, and if I should attend without a drink. After going over and over all this in my mind, I decided to just not go, and I felt a weight lifted. Phew! I could just stay home alone and safe again. I did feel bad about letting down the person who had invited me, but the need to relieve myself of stress outweighed that.

Since then, I have berated myself for overthinking it all and a few days ago, determined to make new friends, I attended a chili night at a neighbour’s home and met lots of lovely people who also live nearby. They were all interested to know where I was from and to share travel stories.

Image via Wikimedia

This success inspired me to sign up with not one but two groups of newcomers to the city. One of them had their introductory potluck picnic yesterday and I went. I took the lawn chair that was in my car and a contribution to the food. For two hours I chatted happily with some complete strangers, and I was quite comfortable. They made me feel accepted.

Today, I hardly recognize myself. I am beginning to feel again more like the person I used to be prior to Covid. I am reassured that I can make conversation, that I have a few interesting things to say, and that I am not a bad listener. More to the point, I am reminded that most people are friendly and, like me, are looking for companionship. If I focus on them instead of myself, I think I might have this social anxiety problem licked.

15 Comments

  1. Good for you! Baby steps…Love and forgive yourself and do what feels good to you in the moment.

  2. I can totally relate Anne. Over two years of being essentially a recluse, a hermit, it has indeed changed my own social norms and skills developed over my life! I find today—with Omicron Ba.5 and other inevitable subvariants certainly on the way—that I’m literally starved, craving for ANY sort of human interaction, total strangers or wild animals included! 😄

    I feel as if I was part of one of those deep space, interstellar travel experiments where astronauts are ‘locked up’ inside a confined space capsule/station for many years, and only the same 3-4 shipmates to interact with! 😵 My social skills have most definitely suffered. It may take several years to return to normal… hah, whatever that was/is! 😉

      1. It is astounding! Adapt, re-adapt, repeat. That sounds pretty much like evolution over centuries and millenia, huh? 😄 Ummm, can I sign-up for a different class/curriculum, because I want to drop this one. hehe 😉

  3. The last time I moved to a new town by myself, I was 22 years old. It takes a bit of bravery to get out there and meet people, I think. So glad you were able to put yourself out there. Like others have said, your technique of “focus on others” sounds like a great strategy.

      1. Wow, that’s a great start! Will your winters in your new environs be less formidable than Edmonton? Just hoping it will be easier to get out and about for you!

  4. Well, my Friend, you do know me and I definitely fit into those who have posted so clearly regarding what Covid gifted us with that I surely never expected. I become almost literally ill prior to any social situations now. I considered myself a “people person” for my adult life and the past 2+ years has really done a number on me. I feel grateful that I am not alone in this. You have been, it seems to me, so very brave regarding your move to Nanaimo. I don’t know whether I could have done that at this stage of my life. You are my hero!

    1. That is very kind, Mary Beth. Thank you. It was a decision that took a very long time and two reconnaissance visits before I took the plunge, but I am very glad I did. This place suits me very well.

      I’m still working on becoming social again, but I’m further ahead today than I was a month ago.

Comments are closed.