I have come to notice that many people are unable to spend time alone. Whether it’s going to the dining hall or getting coffee at Starbucks, people on campus must go to their destinations in groups or pairs, or simply do not go if they don’t have a companion. Eating alone, being by oneself, is often seen as someone being lonely with no companionship, but having few friends in the beginning of last year, I have learned that being alone should not be intimidating as a rather introverted person, it can also be good for my own well being.
At the beginning of freshman year, I would almost always go to the dining hall by myself or with just one friend. I knew no one and no one knew me, I simply kept to myself and watched how groups of four to eight came in.
I was not accustomed to eating alone. Meals at home were eaten with family at our table, lunch in high school was with friends and even when I ate on the train, I did not feel alone because of the crowded train carts. As an introvert, it’s sometimes hard to even send someone new a text saying, “want to get lunch?” and so for the first two months of my freshman year, I did what some people cannot do: I ate most of my meals by myself. While I did make great friends throughout the year, those beginning months taught me something especially important: that being by yourself is okay and not something to be ashamed about. For certain people, being socially active can be hard, especially when you do not know your surroundings. Sure, it took me time to branch out, but it was the time that I needed.
Throughout the year, I met great people that are now my suitemates and have helped me through my homesickness and mood swings. I am surrounded by people who know it’s okay to not go out every weekend or participate in every party, that it is fine to put your mental health before the needs of social expectations.
In a society where constantly being busy is seen as being productive and having no time to take care of oneself is okay, I find it important that we all, whether introverted or extroverted, to find a time and place to be alone. Being alone is not the same as being lonely, they should not be synonymous. When alone, we not only learn about ourselves and the people we surround ourselves with, it gives us time to reflect.
In the words of Ned Vizzini, “A person’s relationship with food is one of their most important relationships.” If no one is available to join you, simply go enjoy your meal by yourself. You might just learn something.