How to Exist by Yourself
By Avery Hellberg
Photo by Maya Geiger
Growing up comes with many hardships. You are forced to handle more responsibilities, pursue higher education or get a job, and you can no longer use your youth as an excuse. One of the more tragic, but scarily relevant truths, of growing up is learning how to be comfortable with yourself. This is particularly true for college students. Despite being surrounded by hundreds or even thousands of other young people, it is not rare to feel isolated in a sea of humans.
March 2020 to August 2021 taught me many things. I, along with millions of other high school students that graduated in 2021, never planned to spend their senior year alone. In hindsight, it prepared me for college more than anything else could’ve. Before coming to college, incoming freshmen are told that they’ll meet many new people, create new relationships, and get to live alongside their friends. This is all true, but often freshmen get faced with the harsh reality that they’re often unable to escape some sort of solitude in college. Rather than attempting to escape solitude, you must learn to embrace and appreciate it.
When you live, eat, sleep, and socialize in the same space that you go to school, it is essential that you take time to yourself to recuperate, even if you think you don’t need it. Taking time for yourself can manifest in different ways. Doing activities that you are used to doing alongside someone else - whether that be going to the dining hall or grocery shopping -by yourself are simple ways you can begin to be comfortable existing on your own. Even the most extroverted of extroverts need space for themselves at times.
College feels like a time warp, a strange middle ground between childhood and adulthood. We may think we are grown up and mature as college students, but we are still heavily sheltered from what will come post-grad. I am only a sophomore, so I cannot speak entirely on life post-grad but, from my observations, it can be very lonely. For many graduates, you will not be in an environment where you are constantly surrounded by your friends, classmates, and people your age in general. Many move away from their college towns, and the time spent apart from the friends that you used to see every day grows more and more as the years go on. Getting to know new people is a quintessential part of college. Who’s to say you can’t do that with yourself?
The only constant in your life is you. There is a false narrative created when talking about college that you must prioritize the relationships you form during your four years. You don’t have to love spending all your time alone, but as long as you’re able to recognize its importance, you’ll be prepared for the future.