What I've Learned From Being Alone

“Are you doing anything tonight?”

This was a question I was often faced with in high school whenever my mom would wander into my room on a Saturday afternoon. Usually, I’d have something planned with my friends, but there have been a handful of times where I’d shake my head and open up Netflix. Coming from a family of mostly extroverts (I consider myself as an ambivert), they never understood how I could just spend an entire evening chilling by myself. They were used to the constant flow of people coming in and out of their lives, rarely taking breaks and spending time alone. I, however, felt perfectly comfortable with doing so, and being alone is something that has taught me a lot as I’ve grown up and come to college.

As many of you may already know (or are maybe still figuring out), college is full of moments where you’re going to be alone, whether it’s during a quick lunch break in between classes, or in a lecture hall full of 300 people that you don’t know. I’ll say it right away: it’s okay to be alone. Being alone doesn’t mean you’re lonely or isolated, in fact, it can teach you some of your greatest life lessons. I’m not saying I’m an expert, but there are certain things that I’ve found out about myself through self-reflection and spending time alone.

Being alone allows you to step away from the hustle and bustle of life. Between classes, work, internships, activities, and your social life, it’s important to take time for yourself. It doesn’t really matter what you do: whether it’s working out, reading for pleasure, watching a TV show, baking, dancing like no one’s watching, or scrolling through your Twitter feed, as long as you’re winding down and enjoying your own presence, whatever you’re doing is completely valid.

Try to step out of your comfort zone, and try something new by yourself. Last year, I took up boxing for a month. Every couple of days, I’d show up to the gym (the youngest member there!), and made friends with people who had been boxing for years, and who were much older than me. It was intimidating at first because they were a lot better, but they made me better and corrected my (often incorrect) technique.

But I didn’t always talk to people when I was at the gym. There were days when I would just focus on hitting the boxing bag that was in front of me, throwing as many punches as I could, and letting go of whatever was bothering me.

Exercising alone is a great way to let off some steam, but there are other ways to do so, too. I’ve found that writing or doodling, no matter how mindlessly, is a great way to relax, too. Find things that make you serene and not think about the pressure of maintaining a ‘perfect’ life. That’s when you’ll find out what you truly enjoy, not what you think you enjoy because of the people around you, or because of outside influence.  

As Oscar Wilde said, “you need to know how to be alone and not be defined by another person.” Your friends might like one thing, but you don’t need to tailor your choices based on what they think. This will also allow you to build up your confidence, and your self-esteem. The moment you stop comparing yourself to others (whether it’s through appearances, career goals, or achievements), you become the best possible version of yourself. It’s important to remember that just because you’re alone, doesn’t mean you’re lonely. It’s better to be alone than surrounded with the wrong people, or people who don’t align with your personality. Another great thing that being alone has taught me is how to find friends that you know you can trust and will get along with. It’s taught me how to sit back and observe others, to listen to their stories, and to be patient.

Being lonely, however, is completely different. If you’re lonely, don’t be scared to reach out to people, and surround yourself with friends who will support you, because they exist.

A lot of people walk into college expecting to be constantly surrounded with friends and others around them. But if you get lost in a crowd and don’t allow yourself time to be alone, you won’t ever get to know who you truly are, and what matters to you.

 

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