When I transferred to Baldwin Wallace for my fourth year of college, I didn’t know anyone. My first semester of classes consisted of two completely packed days with one-to-two hour breaks in between classes, meaning I had no time to go home.
Rightfully so (and being Julia) I panicked.
I didn’t have anyone to sit and talk to in between classes, and I had absolutely no idea where to eat on campus. So, on my first day of classes, I did the only thing I could think of—I went to the Panera Bread down the street for lunch.
I was alone, and I hated it
I’m an introvert, but not the type of introvert that wants to be alone all the time. I enjoy having people around me, especially close friends and family, and I hate the thought of being by myself for an extended period of time, which is why I panicked at the thought of starting out at a new school, not knowing anyone, and having to be alone.
And it’s why I felt the way I did when I went to Panera by myself for lunch.
I walked into Panera, ordered food, got my drink and took a seat in an open booth. As I sat there and waited for my food, I wanted to crawl out of my skin. I felt like everyone was staring at me (and judging me). I was so uncomfortable that I did the only thing I could think of—turn to my handy-dandy smartphone.
As I was scrolling through various apps, I caught myself frequently looking around, and getting more uncomfortable by the minute. Eventually I sat back, told myself, “You’re being stupid,” and put my phone away. I ate my food, looked around the room and out the window and began to do something I had not done in a long time—let my mind wander.
Being alone is a necessity
It is so difficult to actually be alone in today’s world, especially with the emergence of technology and social media. Even if you are sitting at home by yourself, you don’t feel alone. You can call or text someone, interact with people on Twitter and Facebook, Snapchat your friends, watch YouTube videos and that’s not even half of it.
This might sound like a great thing, especially if you are like I was and absolutely hate being alone, but it actually hinders your abilities.
When you’re constantly stimulated with information, you don’t have time to think and be creative. Information is constantly being pumped into your brain, and nothing is coming out. Sure, maybe you’re learning more and experiencing more, but what good is all of that information if you don’t have an outlet to express it?
You need to be alone, and I mean completely alone—no phone, no social media, no emails, nothing—to think, breathe and recharge.
Take the time to be alone
Being alone doesn’t mean that you have to turn your phone off and stare at the wall. It just means that you don’t have people constantly bombarding you with information, tasks and suggestions. It is a moment for you to let your mind water and think about whatever comes across.
I understand carving out alone time may not be the easiest for some of you. Maybe you have a spouse and children that are around you at all times or maybe you have a big family and physically cannot be alone because there is nowhere for you to go, but where there’s a will there’s a way.
Here are a few things you can do to “be alone,” even when (and especially when) you live in what feels like a zoo:
- Go for a walk. Although this may only work on nice days, taking a brisk walk around the block allows you to clear your mind while breathing in fresh air. It’s a win-win.
- Clean. Sure, maybe cleaning isn’t your favorite task, but we can all agree it needs to be done, so why not make it even more productive. Put your headphones in and let your mind take you wherever it wants to go.
- Go for a drive. I used to go for drives all the time, and I loved it. Put the music on low and allow yourself to think. Just don’t get lost.
- Grab some coffee. Sure, maybe you aren’t completely alone when you’re sitting at a table in a coffee shop, but you are alone with your thoughts. I’d recommend this for only seasoned alone-lovers.
- Simply relax. If it’s a nice day, grab a lawn chair and sit outside. If it’s cold or rainy, grab a book and a blanket, sit by the window and make some hot cocoa. Just take the time to relax, worry about nothing and let anything and everything pop into your mind.
It’s more than okay to spend time alone. Heck, I’d argue that it’s needed to have a healthy mind (and just to not go crazy with everything on your plate). You have to take time to care for yourself, even when that requires being alone.