The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Monday December 5th

Column: How to be comfortable being alone

DTH Photo Illustration. Learning to be alone is hard when TikTok and online media is easily accessible.
Buy Photos DTH Photo Illustration. Learning to be alone is hard when TikTok and online media is easily accessible.

Before coming to college, I took a gap year to work, travel and have a glow-up.

For the first half of the year, I moved to Manhattan to live my Carrie Bradshaw fantasy. I was prepared for anything: running late to work in cool outfits, hailing taxis with windswept hair –you know the vibe. What I wasn’t prepared for was how much I would be alone. Unlike Carrie, I didn’t have a go-to group of friends with whom I could spend every waking moment.

So, I made a decision. If I had to spend a whole year with myself, I was going to be corny, pick flowers, go have fun and be besties with myself, no matter how much effort it took.  

In other words, I learned how to have a good time being uppercase Alone. Not like lowercase alone, when you’re sitting in your room and wishing someone would text you about what’s happening tonight. I’m talking about the kind of Alone when you intentionally spend hours by yourself, doing what you want and having a good time.

Because one day, whether it’s due to moving to a new city, changing jobs, going through a breakup or arguing with friends, you’re going to find yourself alone. It’s up to you whether you make it uppercase or lowercase.

Ask yourself what being lowercase alone means to you.

While it’s different for everybody, I've learned how to recognize that feeling in myself. It's when I'm surrounded by happy friends, couples and families, and I crave company like the kind they have.

It's that feeling of being at a party and not knowing who to talk to or what to do with your hands.

Be Alone, with a friend.

After figuring out what feeling lowercase alone means to you, it’s time to make that situation a little more comfortable. A little more thoughtful. A little more uppercase.

Just diving straight into being Alone can be hard, especially if you’ve been supplementing your hyperactive brain with TikTok for the past four years and don't remember what it’s like to think.

If the idea of going out by yourself with only your thoughts sounds daunting – which is totally normal – try walking somewhere on campus with a friend and separating enough so you can still see each other, but can’t talk. A great place to do this is Coker Arboretum.

Sit where you are for one whole hour. Take a drawing pad, book, paints, whatever you want that can help entertain you without forcing external content into your head. The goal is to work with what you already have in that wrinkly, overworked, latte-soaked brain of yours. 

Do this a few times, and if it becomes easier, try going to that same place without the friend.

Do something you love doing with friends, Alone.

Get dressed up, take yourself to your favorite restaurant (the dining hall doesn’t count) and eat an entire meal alone. Don’t go on your phone or read a book or do anything to distract yourself. 

You’ll be surprised to see how peaceful it is, and how nobody else in the restaurant cares. If they do, they’re a loser. Seriously, have you ever judged someone for sitting and minding their own business? (If the answer’s yes, you should take some Alone time to ask yourself why.)

Friends flaked on you? Go anyway. Your favorite band is coming to town but nobody else listens to them? Go anyway. Nobody wants to get a pumpkin spice latte and look at people’s cool outfits on the quad before class? Go anyway. (Actually, invite me.)

Integrate being Alone into your schedule

In all honesty, these moments simply give you a chance to figure out what’s going on in your life. We jump so quickly from class to clubs to bed and all over again, it's hard for us to sit and think about how we’ve been feeling and why. 

Think of your brain like a suitcase after a vacation. If you just add more clothes before the next vacation without organizing the stuff you already have in there, it’s gonna be a giant mess. Take one hour each week to fold the clothes and put them where they belong. 

Unlike some of my other questionable advice, my methodology for enjoying Alone time takes practice. Think of it like a homework assignment. It might be uncomfortable and awkward for now, but it gets easier. And that’s just my Two Spence.


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