If you see me on Temple's campus, nine times out of ten I'll be alone. I walk to class alone, I get lunch alone, I go to the gym alone. I like being independent and being with myself and I shouldn't be judged for doing so.
In college, we are thrown into an environment where everyone has a different schedule and we're all worried about our own shit. It's not like high school, where you have limited responsibilities and you see the same people every day for four years. College is ever-changing and everyone is growing up and working towards their own goals.
If you're not a very social person, like me, this makes it hard to socialize and make friends. And even when we do make friends, it's not like a high school friendship. It's an "I'll see you when I can" relationship. It's an adult relationship, which is perfectly valid. We still have friends, we're just not with them all the time.
This came as a shock to me at the beginning of the semester, but I have learned to accept it and even enjoy it. Initially, I felt extremely lonely and like an outcast. All I saw around me were people laughing with friends every day and going out to parties with them every weekend. I'm naturally an introverted person and I know alone time is essential for me, but I still felt like I was doing something wrong.
I have been told by my therapist and dietician that, mentally, I am extremely mature for my age, almost like I am already an upperclassman even though I only just started. As a result of this disparity between me and my peers, I feel like I don't connect with anyone. Don't get me wrong, I would love to be a normal, carefree college student and have fun before I have to buckle down, but I just don't resonate with that. I see people going out and having fun with friends and I totally wish I was right there with them, but forcing myself to do something I don't naturally want to do would make me inauthentic.
As time goes on, I continually realize that I don't have to have a huge group of friends to feel accepted and loved. I have a few close friends and a bunch of people I am friendly with and that's okay. Because of this, I have had more time to explore myself and how I can make my college experience the best for me, while also preparing for my future.
I still get lonely. I still wish I felt like I fit in. But I know there are people like me out there somewhere and, although I like being alone, I will always be open to making new friends. I just need my solitude. It's my self-care and its what I like. I know I'm not the only one.