Making alone time your own time

Last week I wrote about the importance of positive self talk, and I realized there’s another aspect of my day to day life that I should approach with a more optimistic outlook, and that is the aspect of loneliness.

busy downtown toronto
feeling isolated in a city full of people can be scary and confusing

There is a lot of stigma around being alone in a room full of people. I know that when I find myself without a companion in a pubic place, especially at U of T, I look around and see everyone is in pairs or large groups and I feel insecure. There’s an almost tangible common fear of being alone– as if a person has no value unless they’re surrounded by others to prove them worthy of someone’s company.

As the semester picks up, we have less and less time to spend with our friends. And this is valid and fine. Or maybe we’ve had trouble connecting with the people around us so far, and that’s fine too. However often I tell myself that there’s nothing wrong with being a busy introvert, there will always be a voice in the forefront of my mind whispering “you have no friends.”

I’ve realized there’s really no use in trying to stop comparing myself to people with more vibrant social lives than mine, it’s in our nature. What I’ve been doing instead is reminding myself of all the reasons I like having time to myself, which has worked so far.

There’s the obvious reasons to being alone: productivity. It’s easier to get work done without the distraction of socializing, and often I need complete silence in order to focus anyway. It’s easier to remember which tasks are priorities, and I don’t have to discuss with anyone where we should go to study, either. If the desire takes me, I can get up and leave Robarts in favor of Knox college anytime, it doesn’t matter which is closest to my friends’ class.

Another great one is food. My best friend hates sushi, but sushi is my favourite. Whenever we want to go out for dinner we spend a long time trying to find a middle ground, and often even get into arguments about it. Food is the thing we bicker about the most. I got into the habit of taking myself out for meals last year, and frankly I really love it. I can eat whatever I want, whenever. I can do homework or read a novel or watch youtube videos on my phone, no pressure to entertain anyone.

a collection of open sketchbooks displaying doodles of people's faces
There’s also more time for hobbies like doodling!

I’ve found that spending time on my own has also been incredibly beneficial to my mental health. Life is so busy for students that the times I have no plans with anyone for an evening start to feel like the only nights I can find peace. I can take a bath with a lush bath bomb, cry about a terribly dramatic movie or TV show, and talk to my cat about how much I love him without being afraid of looking ridiculous.

Instead of feeling lonely, I am teaching myself to feel relieved. I am training my mind to experience peacefulness instead of isolation, because I’m not really isolated, no one is. If you are lonely and looking for new friends, University of Toronto has dozens of clubs to join where you can meet people who share your interests, but there is no shame in spending your time looking after who is most important: you.

Finally, here’s a spoken word poem “How to be Alone” by Tanya Davis that I find really elevates my mood when I’m feeling lonely (Click here for transcript).

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