Together alone

Tim Costello reflects on coping with isolation as an extrovert, and how the pandemic might lead us to recognise our interdependence.

I realise that my life of work and activity has flowed out of my extroversion. I rank at 97.5% on that spectrum. Needless to say, I have years of throwing myself into activity; relishing meeting people, speaking to crowds, and endlessly using my mobile phone. I have always thrived on running to help, and being present at disasters to bring aid.

This time of isolation has been much more testing for extroverts – of that I am sure. My wife is quite different – at home with her own company and she can cope with not seeing people.

But COVID-19 has left me feeling pretty lost. I am not ‘wanted’ anywhere to rescue. My ‘work’ is not essential, so I have been told to stay at home. My father answered the call to duty and fought in New Guinea in World War II. Here I am in 2020 with the world in meltdown and the demand on me is to just sit on my couch. And as a 65-year-old to accept that my fate is in others’ hands. This is quite humbling.

But as this time unfolds, I sense the experience, unlike any other, will help me work out what ultimately matters. It’s forcing a personal reordering. I think it is also forcing societal change. Can we build back better rather than just snap back? Does our interdependence, biologically through a virus, lead to really embracing a society where we are all in this together?

How we come out of it will necessitate wisdom and patience. We know this is true in terms of health measures and clearly it is true economically. But personally, I think the ‘reset’ will make us realise our limitations, and how utterly dependent we all are upon others.