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The Unbearable Loneliness of Being: Learning to Embrace the Comfort of Solitude

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Carleton chapter.

The loneliness of university can catch up to you in the subtlest of ways. From walking to classes alone to hours of solo study sessions, sometimes it’s difficult to recognize the isolating atmosphere of academia. Pair that loneliness with what may be going on in your personal life, and it’s easy to feel disconnected from the world.

Carving out time outside of school for friends is important — every Rory Gilmore needs her Lane, after all! However, learning how to appreciate the comfort of alone time is equally necessary. In embracing the peacefulness of solitude, I’ve discovered the greatness of my own company in such busy times.

My weekends used to be jam-packed with social stimulation, and I would feel sorry for myself whenever my friends were busy. This speaks to a wider phenomenon in a society where we are afraid of seclusion. We rush into relationships, scroll through the lives of strangers on the internet, and occupy ourselves with anything and everything to keep us from being alone.

This fear of being alone has turned life into a whirlwind of chaos instead of a steady flow of intertwining moments. Our life gets turned into a machine instead of an enjoyable journey. We forget to stop and smell the roses, and we forget how to cope with solitude.

This is not to say that it’s bad to socialize. It’s one thing to learn how to be by yourself, and another to unhealthily romanticize your loneliness. I think socializing is critical, but in surrounding all of my free moments with people, I had lost time for the things that I could enjoy on my own. Learning to balance social and alone time has led to the discovery of a happier version of myself.

One of the things that I missed when I started university was all of the time I had to read. My childhood afternoons were rife with exploring fantastical worlds in the never-ending novels I plowed through. There was nothing better than the escapism that other universes had to offer. My love of reading stemmed from my interest in writing, and ultimately my decision to pursue journalism. Unfortunately, time for these reading adventures slipped away when my first semester kicked in.

Instead of being swallowed by self-pity whenever I had a day to myself, I’ve learned to dedicate my precious time to reading. I swapped out nightly screentime for nightly reads, which not only made me happier but also improved my sleeping schedule. Reading has even been integrated into my daily schedule. One of my new favourite weekend adventures is going to a coffee shop — I highly recommend Black Squirrel on Bank Street — with headphones and a book. It’s a perfect balance between a social atmosphere and comforting solitude.

Filling up my time with fictitious narratives also had a dramatically positive impact on my mental health. Hours of my life were wasted fixating on the lives of online strangers on social media. No benefit arose from this obsession. Instead, it made my world seem plain and uninteresting. Consuming stories in books, films, TV shows, and even in music is a much more rewarding experience. I’ve learned to love different methods of storytelling, which has reawoken my own imaginative spirit.

Embracing the greatness of alone time has made space for many creative activities that I thought I had no time for. Journaling is an extremely cathartic experience, and I’ve made time for creative writing, a luxury I had put on hold at the start of the year. Eight months of working on academic papers can get exhausting, and I started to develop a hatred for writing, the thing I loved most for all my life. Time for my own projects was exactly what I needed to reignite the spark of creativity.

Rediscovering knitting is another one of my recent artistic endeavours. Though my grandmother had taught me how to knit when I was young, it had become a long-forgotten skill by the time I started high school. Knitting was the perfect low-stakes undertaking that I needed for watching television. As lame as it may sound, I’m not ashamed to share that there’s nothing more appealing than an evening of hot chocolate, re-runs of Friends, and a new knitting project.

Dedicating time to myself has opened up an entire doorway to nostalgic and nurturing activities. Cherishing alone time makes me less stressed, and more appreciative of the little things. From taking long walks through the Arboretum to spending a Sunday binging my favourite TV show (I’m currently obsessed with Succession), creating time for privacy is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made for my well-being.

Embracing the comfort of solitude is far from unbearable loneliness. If anything, being in my own company is often when I feel the least lonely. Balancing alone time with social time has also made me more appreciative of the time that I do spend with friends. We’re all busy people, but we should never be too busy for the comfort of solitude in a face-paced world.

Alexa MacKie

Carleton '26

Alexa is a Carleton University student studying journalism and law. She hopes to have a writing job or attend law school after graduation. In her spare time, she enjoys watching movies, reading, cooking, travelling, writing songs, and updating her Letterboxd.