Spending time alone is something that is often perceived as sad and pity-worthy. It is viewed as a result of loneliness, and not something anyone would do by choice. However, alone time can be more valuable than everyone thinks. I like to consider myself and extrovert with introvert qualities and moments. I love to meet people, and to keep busy enjoying life with loved ones. But I also like to unwind and have "me time" to recharge. I need time to think about my life, ask myself how I see the world and what I need. Like many college students, I am busy all day at work; I'm "on" all the time. Whether I am learning how to use certain programs or completing projects for my boss, I am focused on my relationships with others. These relationships give me life and my world meaning, but they also remind me that I need to look after myself.
Today, I went for a hike. I lathered myself in bug spray, and drove out to a beautiful state park in my area. I hopped out of the car and disappeared into the woods. I hiked for almost 2 hours, completely alone, and it was exactly the therapy I needed to cap off a busy week of dinners, meetings, and assignments. I passed some people on the trails, but mostly, I only had the company of my Nalgene, car keys, and my phone, (turned to silent, and only on me in case of emergency, or great photo opportunities). After my adventures, I felt fulfilled and ready to return home... after I stopped for ice cream from one of my childhood favorites'. There was once a storefront 5 minutes from my house, but it closed many years ago, and I hadn't had their ice cream since; today I was near an alternate location, and couldn't pass up the opportunity. I walked in, ordered, and enjoyed my ice cream in a small old fashioned glass bowl, at my own little table.
Even though I spent most of my day alone, I did not for one moment feel lonely; I had a wonderful day of thoughts, observations, and quiet. The wildlife around me reminded me of how unique and special Earth is. My mind and body were able to release and empty themselves of the stresses they've been encountering all week, because the only thing that mattered was putting one foot in front of the other. I didn't worry about getting lost, because I had nowhere to be, no one to meet, and no one to let down when I didn't show up on time. Today I felt extra curious, so explored a little bit more than usual, and took some paths "less traveled by." Again, I didn't worry about where they led because I trusted that as long as I stayed on one, it would lead me somewhere safe.
Whether it's a hike in the woods, journaling under a tree, or dining out by yourself, spending time alone is something everyone should do every once in a while. Instead of defaulting to the assumption that someone is alone because he has no one to be with, we should see it as a reminder to do the same - to actively choose to be alone. I love spending time with people who are important to me, and my life would be drastically different without them. However, nothing quite compares to spending time with only my own company. It allows me to reset, and appreciate life a little better, at my own pace, and with more clarity than anything else.
So the next time you're feeling overwhelmed, or want to do something without the expectation of entertaining someone else or their needs, by all means just do it, and do it alone. In reality, no one you encounter when you're alone is really watching or cares anyway, and you'll come out feeling refreshed and fulfilled in a way that you can only reach by yourself. Alone time doesn't mean you don't have an otherwise full life. In fact, if you feel a need to get away and be by yourself, it probably means your life is that much fuller to begin with. Then, after "you" time, you can return to your routine with an even clearer, more heightened level of energy and appreciation for it than before.