I love being alone. I love spending time by myself, allowing me the freedom of doing things on my own terms. As I write this, I sit in a coffee shop with my computer, earbuds in to give off the "please don't approach me" vibe. I don't dislike people by any means-- I value the time I spend with my loved ones. But there's just something special about being by myself that I hold really dear. Being alone, while kind of a drag at times, is very important to my sense of self.
I've always been sort of a loner. As a kid, I would get overwhelmed if I was in a big group for too long and would lock myself in my bedroom upon getting home. I needed to be away from people for a while or I would surely explode. As I got older, I lost the ability to be alone due to all of my commitments. During my time at a local community college, I was constantly surrounded by people. Between my daily classes, lunches with friends, study groups, rehearsals and family time, I was exhausted. I kept wondering why I was so irritable and overwhelmed all the time. There came a time toward the end of my second semester of college where I was so overwhelmed that I went straight home from school instead of out with my sister or friends as I usually did and locked myself in my room. I slept, read and watched Netflix. The next day, I felt far more relaxed. I wondered if the time spent by myself could have anything to do with my renewed energy, so I decided to do an experiment. I spent the next several nights at home alone and was amazed at how much better I felt. My anxiety was lessened and I was better able to articulate my needs to my family and friends.
I would eventually learn that this need for solitude is called being an introvert-- my energy comes from alone time, and being around people tends to wear me out. Many people use the terms "introvert" and "loner" synonymously, incorrectly thinking that introverts just hate people or don't fit in. This is not true. People who are introverted simply need time away to recharge. I think that nearly everyone can benefit from some quality time by themselves-- including extroverts!
I have gotten flack from friends and family for spending so much time by myself. My sister would call me on her lunch break at work and ask what I was doing. I would tell her that I was out shopping or in a coffee shop and she would immediately ask who I was with. She was baffled upon hearing that I was there by myself! "Why are you alone?" is a question I got from her and other friends frequently. The word "alone" has become a dirty word in our people-centered society: being alone in public is embarrassing to some people. I don't see it that way. I see the choice to be alone as something powerful.
Being able to be alone is important to me, and I have grown a lot since I began to take myself places. I've learned to be less rigid about sticking to a plan-- several times, I have quickly turned off of the road while driving to stop at a place I hadn't seen before. I spent time in nature and made the decision as to when I wanted to leave and go home. I was more independent than I had ever been. This not only improved my time spent by myself but made it easier for me to make decisions and articulate what I want while spending time with other people. I am more confident in my choices and more willing to try new things. Overall, I am a more relaxed person now that I have learned how to be alone.
I value my loved ones very much. I spend time with my family and go out with my friends when I can. But being alone has proven to be a healthy thing for me to do, and it could benefit you too. Next time you feel overwhelmed or irritated at others, take some time to yourself. Go to that new little bistro you've been wanting to try. Walk around a store by yourself. Go on a drive or a hike. Do something you love to clear your head. You are the most reliable and readily available person to yourself. You can hear yourself much better when there are fewer people around.