Lonely or Alone?
Why It's Important to Recognise the Difference
I've often found myself perfectly content sitting in my bedroom with a cup of tea; the world around me a million metaphorical miles away while I isolate my mind from everything and everyone else in my life. I like the safety and familiarity of being on my own. I like it when no effort needs to be given to talking, or listening, or paying attention at all. I like the comfort of being out of the public eye, because it means I can be completely, uncompromisingly myself.
And I've been this way for years. I've always had a large part of my person leaning towards solitude. I often have thought it's just who I'm supposed to be, or it's just a symptom of being a young adult—when everything is supposed to be frightening or lame. I always see posts online about how everyone my age is just so annoyed by or scared of socialising. We live in an age of solitude. So I always thought it was normal to be alone as often as I am. But I've recently come to realise that this particular brand of thinking is just regressive. In reality, I'm often not contently alone. I'm just lonely.
I'm a university student, you see. Most of my life is spent in my uni city, in my uni house, with my uni friends. And I absolutely love university. I adore my friends and I'm almost always in a good mood while I'm there. Of course most students get occasional homesickness or bouts of bad health. That's just part of being someone who's young and growing after flying the nest. But overall I really cannot complain about my situation. It's essentially the life I've always wanted for myself.
The problem arises when I'm away from uni. A lot of my school friends were those people you're just friends with because you see them every day. So after uni finished, I only spend time with two or three of them. In fact, most of my socialising time is spent with just one of them: my best friend. So when you only have a small number of friends at home, loneliness can creep up on you a lot more easily than you think. Yes, you can try and fill your time with exercise, reading, shopping, etc, but in the end you just end up craving a good old chat with a familiar face. And, in my case, it's become depressing.
This bout of loneliness also arose a few weeks after I broke up with my boyfriend. Not having someone who talks to you all the time and loves you unconditionally can also take a toll on you. It takes away a feeling of solace and warmth, and I felt like a hole had been created in my life. Though I could have just filled it with another boy, I knew I had to be strong and figure out another way to feel fulfilled without needing a partner. I think that's important for everyone.
You see, because humans are social animals, we suffer when we find ourselves on our own. Even though I'm someone who has little patience for people and can get tired of socialising easily, I still want to actually do it. It's like I have a meter in my head, and if I don't pop a coin in it on a regular basis I just don't feel complete, and I don't feel like me. Being away from my very social uni life has left me a bit empty, and has taken a toll on my mental and physical health. I often feel tired and unmotivated, despite having a job, and everything has started to look a little grey.
So, now that I've recognised that I am lonely, not just alone, I'm really pushing myself to spend as much time with my friends as possible. Sometimes I wake up and think I'd rather not socialise today, but I know how bad I'll feel afterwards if I cancel any plans I have. As tempting as it is to just be lazy and alone whenever you have the chance, you have to remember that other people play a big role in enriching our lives and our minds. As much as you can look at others and pick out flaws, or think up reasons as to why you'd rather be alone, it's important to check in with yourself with the reminder that you're a person too, and you need to talk as much as they do. It's just in our DNA.
So, next time you find yourself on your lonesome a lot of the time, ask yourself whether this is something that's actually making you happy as a person, or whether it's draining you and leaving you stagnant. Look at your everyday life, and try to work out whether it's really fulfilling you and keeping you at your best. Ask yourself whether you're alone, or whether you really are lonely.