I always joke that if college has taught me anything, it’s codependence (and that you should never mix different liquors if you have anything even remotely important to do in, like, the next 48 hours, because you will be incapacitated).
Since I’m an only child, I was alone a lot growing up—especially in the summers. I think being an only child contributed to a few of my characteristics, namely being extremely type-A and a little bit of a control freak. But mostly, it taught me how to entertain myself and not rely on others for my fun.
Fast-forward 10 years: I can’t stand to be alone. College is really cool, because you get to live in a house with all your best friends and do whatever you want for the blessed 48 hours that we call “the weekend,” but it also means that if you don’t want to be by yourself, you never have to be.
I have become so accustomed to being around other people all the time that now being by myself just feels unnatural. Erin and Ashley (the squad) went out of town this weekend to return to the great state of Texas, and I’ve literally been counting down the hours until they come back.
Why does being alone for extensive periods of time make us uncomfortable? Why does the prospect of being single for the foreseeable future make us nervous and desperate?
Humans are social creatures. We are innately designed to crave companionship from others. While this makes for fun Friday nights and comforting Sunday afternoons, it can also develop into something unhealthy if left unchecked.
We’ve heard it a million times before: “Don't rely on others for your happiness.” Valid, sure, but when you’ve got super solid friends who bring you so much joy, it’s hard to separate them from it.
I’m almost positive that everyone, at some point, has been scrolling lazily through Facebook and noticed one of those melodramatic Elite Daily articles espousing some categorized list that promises to breakdown, in numerical order, all the reasons why you’re in your 20s, alone and unhappy, and how to fix it.
I’m guilty of giving them a quick skim, only to find (every single time) that they’re just a long string of aphorisms that offer no true sense of guidance or insight (shocking, right?).
But here’s the thing about being surrounded by your friends 24/7: it’s a distraction. It’s a distraction from the mundane, it’s a distraction from your obligations (Erin is the human distillation of procrastination), and it’s a distraction from the bad things going on in your own life that you’d rather not think about.
For all of these reasons, friends can be a true blessing.
But here’s the downside: constantly being surrounded by friends can also be used as a crutch to ignore aspects of yourself and your own life that you’re unhappy about. Ever since my friends left town, I’ve found myself incredibly restless.
On Saturday alone, I took four walks. Four.
I just couldn't stand sitting in my house by myself, being engulfed in nothing but the whir of the air conditioning and my own thoughts. It felt claustrophobic, so I spent nearly the entire day outside.
But here’s the thing about being alone now. Even when you’re alone, you have the option not to be. You can put on Netflix and throw yourself into the scripted exploits of someone else’s life, ignoring that alone time that, I think, we all desperately need (even if we don’t think that we want it).
I think everyone has a little bit of a sad side. Unfortunately, we live in a world where being a little sad isn’t okay. We post a highlight reel of our most gleaming moments on social media for the world to see, and consume photo after photo of everyone we’ve ever met doing the exact same thing. There’s so much subtle pressure to live a life worthy of cyber publishing.
But it’s okay to not be okay all the time. Acknowledging that you’re a little lost and everything isn’t perfect is the only way you’ll ever make strides at improvement, and sometimes the only way to acknowledge that is to—get this—be alone.
The fine print: