When I look back on my high school years, I recall numerous exciting weekends. Freshman year was essentially making sure I had some sort of social obligation for every weekend night. Fifteen year old me must have had some thought process along the lines of “Well, the cool kids don’t like me, but if I hang out with one person Friday night, see a movie on Saturday, and wander around the mall on Sunday, my cool factor will definitely grow”. Between homework, swim meets, and violin practice, I savored the free time by cramming in as much socializing as possible. It had never crossed my mind that I could have fun, all by myself. It seemed to slip my mind that a human being desperately needs alone time. We thrive off of others so frequently, but tend to forget how precious it is to “check in” with ourselves (excuse me, I watched a Rodney Yee yoga video before writing this). Sophomore year was a dreary, repetitive era, and junior year was incredibly exhausting. It was good ole senior year that forced me to drop the socializing act.
Eventually, the magical senior year was right in front of me. “Ah,” I thought, “This is the crème de la crème of gatherings. These are the social opportunities that can lead me to the Mount Everest of the street cred ladder”. Before I knew it, these illusions were shattered, and reality set in. With each day feeling just as bland and cookie cutter as the previous, the pot of stress and confusion was beginning to boil over. I was only on the tip of the teen angst iceberg, unaware of how dry this act would get. High school isn’t a form of purgatory- but it can feel very suffocating and humdrum. Faced with college auditions, I was forced to sacrifice all of my winter weekends.
Typically, snowy evenings can feel comforting, but in my case, such a pretty scene was actually the backdrop for my personal tour of rock bottom. When I thought the worst was over, senior year presented me with the quintessential cherry on top: my first breakup. A rookie in the heartache department, I had no idea how to deal with this pain. Calling it “rough” would be an understatement. Nothing compares to receiving *the* phone call while en route to a college audition. The snow and my tears were competing with each other to see who could fall faster.
Having seemingly no one in the same situation, I began to pull back. One of the strangest feelings I had post break up was, “Oh. I just spent a lot of time with one person. They know so much about me, and I don’t exactly know how to be me without them.” Stirring this thought around in my overactive brain led me to the revelation that alone time is necessary. Today, being by yourself tends to have a bad reputation. Let’s break that stigma. For starters, any emotional pain sucks. There’s no denying that. But, a person does not resolve their obstacles by absorbing themselves in social situations. In my circumstance, all I had to do was find quiet, public places. Yes, I said public- it’s comforting to sit in a park, surrounded by strangers. I love indulging in a trip to a grocery store, party of one. When you boil it all down, it’s reassuring to know you can find joy in something by yourself, watching others partake in that activity with a group.
A few months after my heart began resuming its usual condition, I had an epiphany while at coffee with a friend. Although it may have been jump started by a pep talk, I stopped my friend and said, “Wait- I have learned something in spite of all this misery- I can do things on my OWN. I can be a cool, interesting person, and I don’t need anyone to help me do that!” (I may not be doing the tale justice, because it felt like balloons should have fallen from the sky at this point).
No, I am not encouraging you to never spend time with other human beings- they can be incredibly helpful and enlightening. But, I learned when to step back. I do not weigh my value on how often I partake in an interesting social outing. I used the remainder of that year to learn about what I truly enjoy. I indulge in my alone time, and find joy in simple things, like driving myself to the river to sit and watch the boats- alone. Once I closed the chapter of my life in which I filled every ounce of my time with others, and started appreciating my time with just me, myself, and I, a weight was gone.