When I was in college, I used to think I always had to be doing something.
I guess that’s what happens when you live in such a populated community of young people. You walk outside your building and there are groups gathering everywhere. At the dining hall, the library, in the hallways, on the fields, people are gathering, talking, laughing, eating, studying, playing… always together. It’s one of my favorite things about college communities – there’s so much energy and life and activity, but viewing it from the wrong lens can cause isolation and discontentment if you’re not careful.
My friend Jordan puts it this way…
He says every freshman on campus will lie awake at night feeling like they are the only person who is alone on this campus. They think everyone else has met all their best friends, figured out their calling in life, and is having a blast. Everyone else already feels connected and established. Everyone but you.
But it’s not true.
It’s not true at all. Because deep down, inside, we all have our moments of fear. We are all asking ourselves “What am I doing with my life!? Who are my real friends? What do I even do when I’m alone?” It’s been five years since I was a college freshman and if you asked me, I’d tell you YES I HAVE GREAT FRIENDS in this little college town and WOW I’M BLESSED with a beautiful community and CRAP I’m pretty busy trying to keep up with people…. But at the same time, here I am alone again in my apartment at night wondering if I’m the only person who struggles in the silence of solitude.
Remember when you were growing up, you’d come home from school or sports practice and you’d eat dinner and just be home? Remember on the weekends, you wouldn’t always have plans, and that would be okay? You’d read or watch cartoons or go play outside. You’d complain about being bored and your mom would threaten you with chores. You’d doodle and daydream and clean your room. It was life. You didn’t have to constantly be doing things and making plans and attending every event. You were just living your life, and you were home.
Those are the memories I go back to when I start to feel lonely. When I start to pace around my apartment or when I’m tempted to grab my keys and peruse Target for the third time in a week. Thinking back to life at home helped anchor me when I was in college, alone in my dorm room on a Friday night, convinced everyone else was hanging out with awesome plans and no one else struggled like me. I thought back to my house in Fairfax, VA, to “normal life,” to remembering that being home is being somewhere. Being alone can count as doing something. And moments of solitude do not mean I am completely isolated.
In fact, solitude can be pretty good, once I learned to appreciate it.
Solitude is a chance to reset between all the activity. It is fuel, even for an extrovert. It’s a chance to listen to reflect on the past and listen to the voice within. I need solitude for those precious moments of peace where I can catch my breath and pray and relax and find myself outside of all the people.
I heard this quote recently that said, “Once we stop rushing through life, we realize how much we actually have time for.” Solitude does that. Being alone is not the bad guy.
So to those precious individuals who struggle to find themselves in moments of isolation, I want to encourage you to press into it instead of fighting against it. Press into the solitude. Remember just because no one is around, this doesn’t mean you are all alone. Let me say it again: Being alone is not the bad guy.
Take these moments as opportunities to refresh and relax. It’s very likely tomorrow will be a busy, people-filled day.