Many people don't enjoy being alone, but why is that?
People often equate being alone with being lonely, but these aren't the same, or at least they don't have to be. I thought they had to be the same thing for a long time, even going as far as spending time around people who I didn't care for just to escape the feelings of being alone.
I've since come to realize the time I spend by myself is valuable and crucial to my day-to-day life. Whether you're an extrovert or an introvert, you should value the time with yourself. Use it to decompress, to evaluate your priorities and to sort through your thoughts, even the uncomfortable ones.
I realized this during the height of the COVID-19 lockdown where the only interaction I had with my friends and family was through a screen. It took awhile to adjust, but it made me realize I needed this time to deal with thoughts, feelings and memories that I would've rather ignored. It also made me value the time I spent with the people I enjoyed more.
This is not to say it wasn't a difficult process, because it very much was. For most of the pandemic, I felt lost, not sure what the future looked like.
But after a couple months, these feelings subsided — I felt less like a prisoner in my head and I became more in touch with myself. This alone time made me realize my life is no longer dictated by my parents or anyone else but me, I create the life I want.
I started reading and skateboarding more and overall started taking better care of myself. I even journal now to help organize my thoughts and emotions.
People are often stigmatized for being alone, especially when in public. Now most people think it's odd to see anyone sitting and eating at restaurants, at bars or just spending time by themselves in public. And if they are, they're either on a phone, laptop or some other device, hoping not to be looked down upon.
The negative effect of social media was a huge realization to me. The more time I spent on social media the more I felt separated from everyone else. Decades ago, people didn't have the capability of being in touch with anyone and everyone they know for every minute of the day. They valued the time spent with others because they weren't able to talk with them at any point in time.
Although technology has allowed us to do this, I don't necessarily think this means we need to. Humans are social creatures, but we need time spent by ourselves to do some mental and emotional housekeeping.
This time is crucial for creativity, self-discovery and self-evaluation. We need to normalize people spending time alone, even in public settings. We can grow as human beings if we're given time to individually pause and reflect without the annoyance of constant influence and chatter. Don't be afraid to take some time for yourself. After all of the uncertainty, anxiety and worry that we’ve all felt recently, I say we could all use a moment to reflect.
Sean Gilley (he/him) is a senior studying political science and economics with a certificate in informatics.