The Importance of Spending Time Alone and Getting to Know Yourself

Aarya Dev, Managing Editor, Feature

Growing up in the era of social media, we were taught from a young age the importance of socializing. Knowing more people got you picked first for dodgeball and was a guarantee your lunch table would be full. And as we’ve grown up over the years, faced mountains of hardships from social injustice to the pandemic, the value of strong friendships has been proven more and more. But, among each bout of adversity, the most important relationship to me has been the one I’ve built with myself. 

When COVID hit the middle of sophomore year, a time of cramming for finals and days spent on the ice were exchanged for social distancing and alone time. A lot of alone time. For someone that had filled every waking moment with school, friends and sports, my daily itinerary suddenly became somewhat short. Don’t get me wrong, those first few weeks felt like a godsend: Catching up on weeks of sleep, having warm meals with my family and not even looking at my ipad (forget checking Schoology). Life was good, but there is only so much recharging a person can do. 

As FaceTime and Netflix watch parties declined, I started expanding my hobbies, new and old. The first was reading. I grew up reading a lot as a kid, burning through book after book anywhere from school to dinner parties and anything from twelve-part series to airplane pamphlets. So with all this time on my hands and the gift of Amazon Prime, I started again. I now have piles of books spread about my room, bent and stained with snacks and writing detailing my thoughts as I inhaled each story. Reading allows me to travel to different worlds, live different lives and escape from whatever has been bothering me–this freedom is why I’ll continue to love it forever. 

I also learned what I needed to be the best version of myself. For example, I learned that, for each hour I spend being productive, I need at least half that time to do nothing to stay sane. I also learned, as a pleasant surprise to my mom, that I enjoy cleaning and organizing as a release for pent up anxiety and stress. Eventually, all the alone time grew on me, and I now have to spend at least an hour by my lonesome to be able to pleasantly socialize. 

Spending time alone can often be stigmatized as lame or lonely, but I have found there are many exciting things to do alone that can help you get to know yourself. An example is a phone-free walk where I turn on a playlist and do not disturb, and I hike through the trail behind my house. This helps me reflect on what’s been going on in my life and relax for a bit without worry from the outside world. Another example is taking myself shopping: I head to my favorite stores and let loose buying clothes, books and flowers for myself. While this activity is not my bank account’s favorite, it allows me to treat myself with the simple things I appreciate which makes me feel happier and more satisfied. 

Through each phase of hardship, my relationship with myself has become stronger and stronger. There is nothing quite as comforting as knowing you can rely on a person wholeheartedly, and there’s nothing more powerful than that person being yourself.