By Anne T. Donahue
The last three years have been an absolute trip, and the last thing I thought I’d be looking forward to is doing absolutely nothing this autumn and winter because that is the person I am and have maybe always been.
For the record, there’s nothing wrong with going out. Sometimes I like it! Last Friday, I picked one of my best pals up from the airport and we got dinner super late (9 p.m., a real stretch) and I got home after midnight and I went to bed thrilled, happy, and full of Tums because I really do need to eat supper by 8 pm, latest. I love a dinner out. A walk and talk. A trip to the mall or to Ikea or to a casino (I am an 82-year-old retiree) or to somebody’s home, where we can sit and gab and hate-watch a terrible movie. I love a wedding. Give me a thrift shop. A venture to Lowe’s. Errands. I love errands. But then I would like to go home and curl up with Beat Bobby Flay.
Obviously, I wanted it to be different. I wanted my days after the worst of the pandemic to be a far cry from my existence wearing stretchy pants and marathoning Mad Men for the 60th time. I wanted to read, yes, but to pepper my evenings in with adventures and friend time and proof that I was alive in the world and making it happen. Me! A grown woman! Existing on the planet! Just like I was 25 again!
But I was a pretty boring 25-year-old, and it’s shameful to think that at 37 I would morph into a person with enough disposable income to mimic some cosmopolitan life that stressed me out before I was old enough to legally drink. I’ve always hated staying up late. The idea of a jam-packed social calendar makes me feel sick, and if I don’t see a beacon of emptiness at some point over the weekend, I will IBS myself to kingdom come, thinking about how tired I’ll be over the week with papers and assignments and appointments and grocery shopping. It turns out, I need space and a little bit of quiet and to exist in a bubble that isn’t necessarily designated by federal law. And then once in that bubble, I need to be cool with it because if I try to overcorrect, I will end up nearly in tears at the nearest Indigo because they sold out of the stickers I use in my planner, my only source of true order in this messed-up world.
The thing is, I know I’m not alone in this. Over the last handful of years, my friends and I began shifting into roles that called for less IRL hangs and more quiet understandings that friendship isn’t linear, and that time apart doesn’t mean we’re any less close. To stay in or cocooned on one’s own accord doesn’t mean we’re best pals any less or that our friendship has crumbled. Instead, it usually connotes a level of comfort: mainly, that we trust our dynamic so much that I know that should eons pass without a hang, we’ll pick up exactly where we left off as soon as we’re done hugging hello for 45 minutes. Should a crisis arise, we’ll be there, whether in-person or on the phone or tethered to Zoom (in cases of true, honest-to-god absolute emergency). But for one’s world to shrink a bit isn’t usually cause for concern – some of the best chats I’ve had all year have happened after radio silence due to, well, life.
And life means many things: people are married, they have kids, they’re grieving, they’re starting new jobs, they’re moving away, they’re moving back, they’re sorting their shit out, they’re suddenly not so quick to book up their nights because they might just need to stretch out and exist. Some of the aforementioned can breathe even more energy into a person. But for the rest of us? Well, I just bought new pajama shorts and I am psyched.
So maybe my plans for a slightly-more-eventful summer were a bust, and maybe I’m peering into autumn and fall freakishly psyched to feel like less of a buzzkill for going to bed at 10 45 and eating dinner at 7 (or even 6 30, I won’t turn it down). I’m looking forward to super-chill evenings in which “uneventful” is a step up, and then rolling myself into sweatpants and doing my schoolwork and going to bed. I’m relieved that I have an excuse to be a little quieter and even more relieved that I don’t need to explain this to my pals who seem to be feeling the same way. And maybe most of all, I’m excited to revel in the fact that boredom is an option, and that boring is a privilege. Frankly, we’ve all been dealing with far too much over the last slightly-less-than-a-decade. We’ve earned a cocoon. Our time (I hope) has come.
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