There’s comfort in being alone. It’s easy. It’s straightforward. You don’t have to factor anyone in but yourself. You can do whatever you want, whenever you feel like it.
As an introvert, I’ve always sought out alone time as a way to recharge and take a break from people. I’ve always needed this time to myself to process experiences in order to be able to move on to the next ones. As a result, I’ve always dreaded school trips or other group vacations with shared rooms and days filled with social activities. Luckily, I didn’t have to put up with many of those, but the few I had to endure left me feeling drained, empty and sad and the comfort I found in being back home in my own bedroom was almost as overwhelming as my difficulty with presumably fun getaways.
A lot of people don’t understand this vital need for recharging of mine and consequently label me as “antisocial”, which I don’t believe I am. There’s no way to force me to “be social” once I’m maxed out in terms of social interactions. In other words, once my social battery’s at zero percent, there’s no turning back − the only thing that can help me when I’ve reached that point is retreating and recharging. Depending on how understood I feel by the people I’m surrounded with, it takes more or less time for me to get there. When I’m peopled out, I usually shut down. I get tired and retreat into my shell even though I’m still physically present. To an outsider it may look like I’m either daydreaming or very annoyed, the latter being particularly hard to explain, especially when I’m low on battery.
As you may have guessed by now, I don’t have a problem with being on my own. I’m usually not bored and I’ve even learned to do (and enjoy!) things on my own, like going to concerts for instance. This wasn’t a choice at first, but when I grew tired of people generally not wanting to accompany me to events (for various reasons, I’m not that annoying to hang out with 😇), I started going by myself. It was obviously a bit weird at first, mostly because I was afraid people were going to judge me for being alone, AKA not having any friends. As soon as I got over this (spoiler alert: nobody cares!), I learned to enjoy the experience.
As soon as I reached that amount of comfort with doing things alone, however, I started worrying about something else: what if I get TOO comfortable with being by myself? What if, instead of using alone time as a way to recharge from social interactions, I’ll start using it as a way to avoid dealing with hard feelings?!
Let me explain.
Dealing with people, maintaining connection, caring for friendships − all of these take a certain amount of effort and require investing emotional labour which, in turn, will make us benefit from the ensuing interpersonal connections / relationships.
Maintaining relationships, whichever their nature, always requires at least a little bit of work, which consequently makes relationships more difficult to entertain, in terms of energy expenditure, than being alone. Being and staying alone would therefore be the easier choice, which is why I’m sometimes haunted by the potentially irrational fear that I’ll end up isolating myself without even being aware of it.
As I’ve explained in a previous blog post, there’s a difference between being alone and being lonely. While it’s possible to feel lonely while being alone, a person who’s alone isn’t necessarily lonely. In fact, my loneliest times were the ones spent in the middle of a crowd, when I was surrounded by people I didn’t (any longer) feel connected to for some reason or another.
Like I mentioned above, spending time alone isn’t problematic for me. What IS problematic however is the feeling of not having anyone to reach out to, the feeling that nobody cares about me and that I’ll always be alone. It’s a very painful and achy, dagger-in-the-heart, pit-in-the-stomach kind of feeling that I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy (if I had one 🤷♀️). It’s the feeling I get when someone flakes out on me and cancels plans at the last minute again, when nobody wants to go to that thing with me again, when everyone has their own plans that don’t include me again. It really hurts. It makes the little pessimistic voice in the back of my head go I knew it! People suck! They’re only out to hurt me! I’d better not rely on anyone! which risks turning into a self-fulfilling prophecy over time.
To sum it all up, there’s two things I’m rather sure of:
1. Spending time alone is awesome.
2. Spending quality time with friends is also awesome.
To accommodate both of these statements, I’ll keep trying my best to find the right balance between spending time alone and spending time with the people I care about in order to avoid the feeling of frustration (accurately portrayed below by Rachel from the TV show “Friends” 🙃) that sometimes creeps up on me when I’m on my own even though I neither need nor want to be alone at that particular moment.