Disclaimer: In Real Life is a platform for everyday people to share their experiences and voices. All articles are personal stories and do not necessarily echo In Real Life’s sentiments.
In Malaysia, with the advent of quarantine measures, people are forced to adopt a lifestyle that’s very similar to the hikikomori — so I decided to ask one such hikikomori what it’s like.
I was put in touch with a self-professed hikikomori by a friend, called Juno* (*Not her real name).
I am a Malaysian Hikikomori, and this is my story.
I call myself an extreme shut-in.
I started living this lifestyle about 4 years ago, when I left the corporate life to go freelance.
As a hikikomori, I avoid going out of my house and meeting as few people as possible. I dislike crowds and I can’t take bright light.
I only go out for like a doctor’s appointment, or if I can’t get something online, like food.
I would consider myself extremely introverted.
It’s like I have a very short mood bar. When that gets filled up, I get upset and moody, and I must go home and unwind.
It can be months before I actually meet people other than my roommates.
When I used to work in an office, it was your typical day-to-day life. But I did not hang out with my co-workers, who wanted to go drinking, and hit the clubs. I went straight home.
My experience in corporate Malaysia made me shun human connections.
In a social setting, I don’t do conversations. I hate small talk, and I don’t like hinting and suggestive things. I prefer to get straight to the point.
When people ask me out after work, I don’t make all the usual excuses. Straight up, I just say, “No thanks.”
It wasn’t that I disliked them. I just didn’t like going out. Yet they would try to force me to go out, saying, “Oh, don’t be a mood-killer. Just come out for once.”
Each time, I said a flat “No.” Because I refused to go out drinking and clubbing with my co-workers, I was called stuck up, proud, and unsociable.
They would badmouth me behind my back and judge my clothes, the food I ate, and just find something, anything, related to me to complain about.
When things went wrong with a multimillion dollar project, because I didn’t have any office allies, I was made an easy target to blame things on.
I was assigned the project on Monday, and unbeknownst to me, the plug was pulled on Tuesday. By Wednesday, the office was filled with whispers that it was my fault. On Thursday, I was fighting to keep my job. And on Friday, I quit and left.
Because I had kept copies of the emails, files and everything, it was easy for me to put together a case proving that I had been deliberately set up to fail and take the blame. My former employer quickly agreed to settle things with me, before the Labor Tribunal could get a hold of it.
Around that time, my mental health took a dive. Out of 5, it was maybe 1-2 because of the stress, the legal proceedings, and trying to find a new job. Now that I’m working from home, it’s gotten better. It’s now a 4 out of 5.
The internet makes being a hikikomori is easy.
I do all my shopping online. I can order food, clothes, and household supplies online. Everything can be done from home.
When Covid-19 hit, and the first MCO arrived, nothing really changed for me. While everyone was queuing in stores to stockpile and buy, I hit the mouse half a dozen times, and paid a little extra for delivery. Life carried on pretty much the same as before.
I found it amusing how people struggled to cope for just that first two weeks at home. I had to hold back my laughter as I watched people complain about being home with nothing to do. I just kept working, kept living my life.
To relax, I listen to rock and classical music, I read mostly fantasy or mystery novels, and I play games like Black Desert Online, Minecraft, and Monster Hunter. If I ever get round to it, I might finish writing my novel or perhaps start another fanfiction project.
I have 4 cats. My oldest cat is about 10 years. I have had him since he was a kitten. The youngest is about 3 years old.
Just being at home alone with my cats and my books and music makes me happy. I love cats because cats don’t judge. They just love me unconditionally. There are no bullsh*t standards to follow. Cats also don’t need walks outside.
People follow society’s made-up standards where you have to act a certain way to be accepted. They judge you unfairly if you don’t. So that’s why I don’t like people. It’s about how much money you wake, how you spend it, what you wear, what you eat, where you shop. All these so-called standards and labels. What good does any of it do?
Saying that, it’s mostly the egotistical and entitled people who are the worst to try to get along with. It’s also these kinds of people that kiss enough a$$ to get ahead without doing anything.
Nothing in society can change or makes me want to interact with people.
If you’re scared that you’re turning into a hikikomori like me, you have nothing to be worried about. The hikikomori life isn’t for everyone.
Other people would find it hard because they have a more sociable lifestyle and they need human interaction. They value having a large circle of friends. They believe it’s important that they are liked by their coworkers.
In fact, thanks to Covid-19, people are noticing how important it is to spend time with the people they love most.
People are now more connected than ever before. Even grandmas and grandpas have learned how to video call and use WhatsApp group calls.
To be honest, there’s nothing wrong with being a hikikomori. It’s just my preferred lifestyle.
Could I go back to living a “normal” lifestyle? I suppose so, but why would I? I have been living the so-called “new normal” for a long time.
I work. I pay my bills and taxes. I don’t have debt. My cats are healthy and get their check ups on time. I take care of myself. I’m doing alright.
As long as you aren’t harming yourself or others, why should it be looked down on?
For more stories like this, read: Alone But Not Lonely – The Trend of Single Young Adults and Introverts Aren’t Antisocial: 5 Things People Get Wrong About Us
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