Loneliness is an inevitable feeling. No matter how many people you may surround yourself with, you’re going to feel lonely at some point. It may sneak up on you during a quiet moment in the day walking between classes, or when you’re pulling an all-nighter and find yourself alone in a group study space. While it may not be fun to be lonely, it’s incredibly important.
Following Bicker, the Tiger Confessions Facebook page was full of posts from individuals expressing the fear of losing their friends to eating clubs and having to go through the rest of their college experience eating alone. I can relate to the fear of being stuck as your own best friend: as a first-year I entered Princeton worried I wouldn’t be able to make friends or that I would just be acquaintances with a variety of people.
However, I think this loneliness should be embraced rather than pushed aside. Instead of finding ways to avoid it, take the opportunities of loneliness to work on your independence.
Being confident in your independence is both incredibly important and incredibly difficult. For the first 18 or so years of your life, you are dependent on your parents, your teachers, and other adults and mentors. College requires a new level of maturity, and you must learn to take responsibility for yourself and — accordingly — become fluent in the language of independence.
Unfortunately, it’s easy to rely on having friends around. We not only attend classes with them, but we also live, eat, party, and room with them. Friends become your lifeline that allow you to feel some sense of community as you face sleep deprivation, stress, and anxiety. When you aren’t studying — or when you’re looking for ways to avoid studying — friends become the source of your distractions and impromptu therapy sessions.
In the end, we become dependent on our friends to help us ignore and escape our many pressing responsibilities. While it can feel strange to be alone with your own thoughts in the dining hall, those moments that you are alone give you precious time to practice independence. More specifically, you have a chance to take a moment to reevaluate yourself, how you are feeling, and what your priorities are, or could be.
We need to remember that while we are in the midst of studying and socializing, we are also learning how to be functioning adults. We are required to understand how to live with ourselves and be comfortable with the idea of getting things done on our own.
To be confident in your independence is to understand that your existence and success is not dependent on other people. Instead, you can learn to have faith in yourself, your abilities, and who you are becoming. Although I have found a group of reliable friends, I realize that being able to be happy — or at least content — when I’m alone can better help me study, create a healthy daily routine, and focus on what I need to do to thrive and not just survive at Princeton.
I am able to make decisions about activities I do, passions I pursue, and tasks I engage in without feeling like I’m missing out or that nobody cares about me. By enjoying my independence, I don’t have to sacrifice academic opportunities or put myself in positions where my health and/or my grades suffer.
In a way, to be comfortable with independence is to conquer the fear of loneliness. In fact, it’s recognizing that you’re not lonely, but instead, you’re alone. Take the time to get to know yourself better, and enjoy the fact that for the time being, you have nothing else to worry about but how you are doing and what is happening in your life. Redefine what it means to be alone.
Rather than feeling as if you have no support, approach each time you are alone as a chance to reset. Adding constant socialization on top of a heavy workload can create a lot of stress. Treat alone time as a reward for dealing with so much daily stimulus. In fact, as inspired by a Tiger Confessions post, if you have a roommate, maybe even ask for the room one evening. Not for the purpose of sharing it with another — though that’s perfectly fine — but purely just to enjoy time on your own. Snuggle up, watch some trashy TV, and be thankful that you have a chance to be alone.
Brigitte Harbers is a first-year from New York, N.Y. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.