By Lois Sapare
Growing up, I’ve always been an introvert.
I’ve transferred schools twice since my family and I decided to stay where we are now for good. I was never a loner, but I’ve never been one to hang with large groups of girls who would do everything and go everywhere–even the bathroom (I never understood that!)–together. At every school I transferred to, I would stay in a close knit circle of two or three friends. My entire life pre-college was all about getting good grades.
At a time when kids my age were inviting each other to malls and clubhouses, being raised by strict parents, I was stuck at home with nothing to do but watch kiddie shows on TV and study on weekends, and somehow I was okay with that.
Solitude forced me to break free of my shell
College was a different story. It wasn’t just a new chapter in my life, it was an entire sequel. I still liked studying and binge-watching TV shows, but it wasn’t all about just getting good grades anymore. While I was okay with being a homebody and maintaining a low profile and small circle of friends before, on some level, I felt empty. I felt like I could do so much more, and college seemed like the perfect time to start.
I still didn’t have total control over my life, but at least I finally had the power to make my own decisions.
So I tried my best to be active in school. I joined orgs and ran for student council. The experience opened up a lot of new doors for me. In only a span of two years, my life changed drastically. I spoke in front of large crowds, lead, expanded my social circle, and learned to love all of that in the process. Long story short, I did things I wouldn’t have usually done (and didn’t know I could do!) and surprised myself (a lot).
I’m not gonna lie, that kind of lifestyle took a lot of time getting used to. At first, I kept questioning myself over and over again, what is an introvert like me doing here? It was a whole different world for me, and I felt like I didn’t belong. I thought I made the wrong decision. I stepped out of my bubble and let go of my precious solitude… for what? For this chaos?
It kept me grounded
But soon enough, I learned how to deal with the transition. When the noise and overwhelm would get too much, I would take some time out and go to a cafe or watch a movie alone to recharge and collect my thoughts. It was during those times that I’ve learned to appreciate my alone time more than ever.
It gave me time to reflect on things
During my senior year in college, my social circle shrank. We were forbidden from joining orgs so we could focus on our thesis and internship. I interned as a Graphic-Designer-slash-Layout-Artist for a music magazine in a city a plane ride away from home. I had to live alone. The idea of living by myself has always excited me, so when I finally had the chance to experience it, I didn’t let one minute go to waste. It was yet another chapter in my life, and one where I learned most from.
Every weekend, if I didn’t have anything planned with friends interning in another city, I would plan a trip to cafes and touristy places and go there myself, regardless of the distance. I wanted to explore the city anyway. Plus, I didn’t mind riding the train. In fact, I loved it. It can be a pain to ride during rush hour, but otherwise, the beauty of simply sitting there–earphones plugged in, getting lost in my own thoughts while watching the city pass by in a blur–it’s priceless.
It gave me a lot of time to reflect deeply on things I wouldn’t have had time for on a normal busy day. We make up so many excuses on how we barely have time for ourselves when even little luxuries such as riding the bus or train can be a vehicle (literally) for reflection.
It helped me get to know myself better
Years of getting used to being by myself most of the time have taught me to enjoy my own company, but it was only when I lived alone that I really had the time to get to know myself. The idea of living alone in an unfamiliar city might have been a scary idea at first, but it was one that really pushed me out of my comfort zone. Who would’ve known that a nineteen-year-old girl with the homemaking skills of a five-year-old would survive living alone in a big city?
Over and over again, I kept finding reasons to prove that there are still many things I can uncover about myself–how much potential I can unlock if only I know to look deeper within. Before, when I look at myself in the mirror, I’d see a girl who’s naïve and clueless about a lot of things. Now that I’ve gotten to know myself better, I see a girl capable of doing whatever she sets her heart and mind to.
It helped me appreciate the little things in life
The kindness of strangers.
The sound of rain.
My mother’s voice over the phone.
On a normal day, I would’ve taken all of these things for granted (and now I know better not to). But at that moment, when I had all the time in the world to really listen, observe, and focus on the little things, they seemed like the most precious things in the world. The world is filled with so much noise, with so many voices competing for attention. It’s sad because most of us feel the need to cover that sad, empty feeling with noise and one distraction after another. I know, because I’m guilty of doing that myself before.
But I think sometimes, all we need is a little quiet to hear ourselves think. To notice the little things. To appreciate art, the silence, and other things we easily overlook when we‘re so caught up in our daily grind.
It helped me love myself, despite my imperfections
I wished I could live like that forever, that I wouldn’t have to get back to my other reality. But as beautiful as the idea may seem, I’ve come to terms with the fact that no one can truly be without other people. I may not have as much time for solitude as before, but I always try to find time for myself no matter how busy life gets.
Perhaps, the most important thing I’ve gotten from solitude is better understanding and appreciation for myself. I’ve gotten to know all my flaws and weaknesses and I’ve learned to stop beating myself up for being me. Instead, I’ve accepted that despite my imperfections, my little quirks make up who I am as a person. I don’t have the perfect skin or body, and I have the tendency to change moods in a second and I love myself for it. Despite it. As that song goes, “Fall in love with yourself because someday you’re gonna be the only one you got.”