For my entire life, I’ve been known as “the loud kid.” Definitely not the one to be quiet and always the one looking to chat. As annoying as my elementary school teachers found my trademark personality trait, I feel as though it has served me well. Thanks to my loose lips, I’ve made more connections, asked more questions, and learned more than if I had chosen a less outgoing path. My propensity for conversation, however, has led to one small issue: I can’t handle being alone.
Seriously, I cannot take it. Whenever I have a moment alone, I immediately begin my search for conversation or companionship. For example, whenever I walk from my off-campus house to campus, I must (must) either walk with a friend or make a phone call during the commute. I won’t go places by myself, I hate empty spaces, and I most definitely can’t stand silence. Recently, I realized this behavior is a symptom of a larger problem: I simply refuse to be alone with my own thoughts. This is not sustainable.
This revelation did, in fact, force me into a minor spiral. It was characterized by the fact that I’m entering adulthood, and adults don’t always have eleven roommates to talk to, a club meeting to attend, or an assignment to do. So in an effort to prepare for the future and promote personal growth this semester, I’ve been doing my best to work on being alone.
To all my fellow extroverts out there, be warned. This alone time thing is not for the faint of heart. It takes a considerable amount of effort to get comfortable with being alone, and even more effort to stick with it. Using my newly sought–after alone time, I have reflected on why I hate being alone, and I can explain what I’ve learned from this personal social experiment.
My first revelation in my attempt to get more comfortable with being alone surrounds why I hate being alone, and why it feels especially unnatural while at college—college promotes togetherness. From group-style living culture—doubles, eight-mans, off-campus housing, and six-mans dominate the vocabulary of BC students—to the communal nature of almost every college activity, you can go days without having to do a single thing by yourself. For this reason, since coming to college, I believe my discomfort with alone time has matured into a borderline fear. It’s hard to feel good, or even comfortable, about being alone when everything surrounding you promotes togetherness.
But, this fact doesn’t discount the importance of time away from the crowds. Since I started actively practicing spending time alone, I’ve begun to appreciate the importance of checking in with my own thoughts. Like I said earlier, the togetherness of college can be all-consuming, making it challenging to truly evaluate how you, as an individual, are doing. By actively spending time alone, I’ve created a space to think about my week, my goals for the semester, or anything else on my mind. While I used to hate this self-inquisitive task and viewed it as a green light for internal self-deprecation, I now approach it with an air of kindness. Instead of dwelling on my mistakes, I show myself grace and focus on the things, big and small, that I want to accomplish, instead of the things I’ve failed to do.
I’m sure you’re all wondering what I’ve taken away from my time spent alone. In the interest of honesty, I will admit that I am not yet totally comfortable with being alone, but it no longer scares me. Even if I still prefer joyful company to solemn solitude, I see the personal benefit in checking out of group functions every now and then. Even better, when I think of my life after college, I no longer shudder at the thought of the vast independence and empty time that I will undoubtedly need to adjust to. I’m getting better at doing things without immediately looking for a companion, and I see the benefit of a mental “self check-in.” So if you’re an extrovert—or you were the “loud kid” in elementary school—and you are looking for a challenge, I encourage you to give yourself time alone for a change. You may even be surprised by how much you end up appreciating it.