When the world went into lockdown in March, I honestly wasn’t too upset about it.
It was strange, sure, but I wasn’t losing my mind, wondering how I was going to cope. I also wasn’t rushing out to the store to stockpile on you know what.
The news of this fast-spreading and potentially deadly virus was a bit unnerving, but I figured it wouldn’t last too long.
Obviously, I was naïve — or maybe just hopeful. I’m not sure which.
I did have one saving grace, though.
It turns out that for the past few years, I’ve been practicing for this; I just didn’t know it.
My main job is in the wedding industry, where I work at a seasonal wedding venue that operates from May to October. As the general manager, that generally means that for six months, I’m working overtime and busting my butt, putting in long hours and juggling a million things.
It’s hard work, and it’s extremely busy. When we’re in the thick of it, it sometimes feels like there’s not even enough time in the day to do the normal/basic human things — like eat, breathe, or pee. Everything’s just happening, and it’s all a blur. One event happens after another. Another wedding weekend flies by, and the next couple is already arriving. It’s a constant sea of motion and faces.
While most people look forward to the summer so they can get away, take a break, go on vacation, or spend time relaxing with family and friends, my summers are the opposite. They are my busiest time of year, and by the end of them, my family has usually seen very little of me. It’s almost like I disappear for a few months each year, only to re-surface when the storm has subsided.
By the time fall arrives, I’m wiped. The bags under my eyes have gotten darker, and my whole body aches. Every fibre in my being is just tired. It’s a perfect segue into the winter months, as by that time, I’m all “peopled” out.
As an introvert, having to be “on” for six months, front and centre, constantly interacting with everyone from couples and their families to vendors, suppliers, other guests, and our staff takes a lot out of me, and I almost need the next few months just to recuperate so I don’t go insane.
I spend my winters “hibernating” in a sense. I soak up the quiet time, and revel in the fact that I get to spend time alone every day while my partner is at work. I love my partner and love when he’s home with me, but I also love being alone. From Monday to Friday, I can count on 9–10 glorious hours of “me” time, to do all the things I’m way too busy to do the other six months of the year.
I curl up on the couch with a fuzzy blanket and read a book. I go sit at coffee shops and people-watch while I write. I take online courses. I watch documentaries and anything that piques my interest while surfing Netflix or Disney+. My partner and I go for walks together, and we also often do our travelling during these months. I visit my family and friends, and catch up on what I’ve missed. I always love that I have the option of being social, but I also know that I don’t have to be.
And in case you’re wondering — yes, I still have to work. But the difference is, for this part of the year, I get to do it from home. As much as I might like it to sometimes, the wedding industry doesn’t rest for the winter. People don’t stop getting engaged, or wanting to tour venues, or planning their upcoming weddings. They don’t stop having questions that need answering. Often, I also take on some freelance work over the winter, working with words in one form or another, whether proofreading, transcribing, or writing.
I’ve settled into this schedule over the past few years, and I’ve become accustomed to it. It works for me, and for my personality. I find it to be the right balance between human interaction and hibernation.
But what happens when your normal “hibernation” period no longer has a set end date?
Well, that’s what I’m finding out this year — and to my surprise, it’s been a lot harder than I thought.
With my seasonal schedule, I’ve probably had a lot more practice being home for extended periods of time than most people. This year, though, none of my “normal” schedule was the same, and it’s taken nine months for me to realize that it has affected me. As it turns out, even an introvert can suffer from too much time alone.
Most years, I know when the end of “me” time is coming. I know that by April, we’re gearing up to open the venue for an early May start, and there’s tons to do. But this year, we opened…and then we waited.
We waited to see if we’d be allowed to host our events as usual, and whether the lockdown numbers would increase in time, all the while dealing with unknowns we never could have foreseen.
We did our best to inform our couples of their options, even though nobody could say for sure what was going to happen, or what the best course of action was. The understandable but impossible questions from clients continued to come in, alongside a fast-dwindling income. Tensions ran high throughout the spring and reached their peak in the summer, when our couples’ wedding dreams went out the window and left everyone feeling empty.
As the main point of contact with our couples, I couldn’t help but feel in some way responsible for crushing their visions and ruining their dreams, even though this pandemic had nothing to do with me, and I wanted it to be over just as much as they did.
Trying to keep a business afloat while at the same time trying to help couples whose weddings have just completely fallen apart and unravelled into tiny pieces all around them is one of the hardest things I’ve ever experienced. I see the perspective of both sides, and I care about both parties.
It is an absolutely impossible situation, and also a heartbreaking one.
For most of this year, I’ve felt like a clown trying to ride a unicycle along a tightrope while juggling, with a fiery pit of lava waiting beneath me.
As a highly sensitive person, being exposed to all sorts of emotions from fear and anger to shock and disbelief to extreme sadness and grief was too much at times, and I thought I was going to implode. Still, we had to push on, because the last thing a business can do in a situation like this is hide.
While I’m usually physically and mentally exhausted by the end of a season, this year I’m mentally and emotionally exhausted.
And to be honest, I think that’s worse. It’s left me with nothing but contradictions to deal with.
Even though I need human contact, I don’t have the energy. I feel totally empty, but also weirdly emotional. I’m both happy that we’re not doing the “big family thing” for Christmas this year, but I’m also grieving the loss of that special tradition and the happiness it brings (even for an introvert like me). I’m happy that it’s not a requirement to be social right now, and yet I long to be. I’m emotionally drained and happy to be home, but also lonely sometimes.
In short, some days I don’t know which way is up.
It may have taken months for me to realize it, but I now know that not even introverts are immune to the effects of a global pandemic.
And in some ways, that scares me. It makes me wonder how anyone is surviving this thing, when not even those of us with practice in being alone and at home for extended periods of time are faring well.
2020 has been a more challenging year than I could ever have imagined.
I hope that we will take care of each other and find our way out of this fog and into a brighter and clearer year ahead.