Growing up, I had a persistent conflict with the word ‘lonely.’ It acted as a trigger for dangerous overthinking and anxious thoughts. I had to do everything in my power to prove that I wasn’t related to that word, that I wasn’t a person that fit the description of lonely.
I forced myself to talk and act a certain way just to please a crowd of strangers. I found myself posting and recording for the sake of online appearances. I had to maintain a facade since I correlated my worth as a person with the amount of social approval anyone could grant me.
One day, time caught up to me. I didn’t have the energy to maintain the fake connections. I found my 18-year-old self sitting in her room alone for what felt like endless Friday nights. My mind started feeling up with “I should” statements: as a university student, I should be partying, I should be hooking up, I should be starting a business, I should go viral, I should have a passion and direction.
I needed shelter, but all I could find was a broken sense of identity and self-love. Being alone was all that I had left, and it turned out it was a space I desperately needed to build.
I was under the impression that I had to meet the standards of “what-ifs” and “I shoulds” for others to like me, but with the newly acquired liberties of university, I realized there were no standards to meet and no one to disappoint. I came to terms with my introversion and the reality that I had different social needs. Connections are a beautiful aspect of the university experience, but they are not a metric to evaluate your worth.
I faced my anxiety, and for the first time, I saw it as something to be treated rather than something shameful to be hidden away. I am far from being comfortable in my skin. Most of the time I fall into the old tendencies, but now and then I remember the healing process I allowed myself to begin.
Lonely, solitary, and isolation are words I have come to realize are a natural part of adulthood. It’s still hard to be in a room alone when it means dealing with self-destructive talk and endless doubts, but it’s time to listen to myself even if it hurts.
The word lonely does not mean inferior, it doesn’t define me, and it can’t harm me. There is nothing wrong with being in solitude from time to time; there is nothing wrong with being in touch with my person. I wish to build a safe space within me, as adulthood is a journey meant to be completely self-guided.
Do not fret, for this may be your time of introspection. You do not owe anyone a book-worth “university experience.”