The past few years have been a journey into self-growth. With that being said, certain events have accelerated and led to pivitol points in this wild adventure of self-discovery. I truly believe that transcendence leads to transformation and obstacles lead to action. A year ago I made the decision to force myself to have time where I am alone with myself. I felt that I was too dependent on other people and it was holding me back from living the life I wanted to live. I couldn’t tell myself what I needed because I didn’t really know myself and I believe this has a lot to do with the fact I was terribly uncomfortable if I wasn’t right smack dab in the middle of a crowd or constantly with someone.
In college I would take advantage of every social opportunity even if I was physically exhausted because I was completely overwhelmed when I would have to be in my own head. After college, I jumped into a relationship that taught me so many important lessons but it worked as just another excuse for me to spend every waking moment with someone else, never myself. I had just moved to my current city prior to that yet a year later I hadn’t discovered anything about myself. I didn’t know myself. I was missing out on experiences not because anyone was holding me back but because I was holding myself back. I was too afraid to just go out and do, do the things I wanted to do because being physically alone meant having to rely on myself. A year of actively forcing myself to spend time with myself has been life-changing. These are the lessons I learned and what might happen to you too if you choose to take the risk:
1. You become your own best friend
I am absolutely blessed with amazing friends. I cherish both friends I see once a decade and friends I see multiple times a week. With that being said, it’s absolutely not possible to make another person your “rock.” Platonic love is real and it’s always out there but I’ve had to recognize that everyone else is on their own journey too. Just like how you can’t be the best person for someone when you’re hurting, other people have their own shit too. It works both ways. I’ve had a really bad habit of prioritizing other people and their needs before my own. As an eternal optimist, I’ve had to actively keep reminding myself that everyone will act in their own self-interest even if their intent isn’t malicious. People mess up. When you have to act in your own self-interest to cut toxic people out of your life, you’re left with yourself. If you can’t comfort yourself then you’re bound to have struggles ahead and fall into an unhealthy pattern of reliance. Everyone has a right to their own actions and emotions, own yours, grow from them and be there for yourself.
2. Trauma will resurface
In the beginning, when I started doing things alone whether it be as simple as going on a walk or traveling thousands of miles away, I felt overwhelmed at my own thoughts until I became comfortable enough to LISTEN to them. When I could finally listen to my thoughts without feeling like the room was spinning, I was able to analyze them and actually work with them. I was able to finally grow from things that happened years ago. For me, letting myself be alone with my thoughts was a catalyst of having to work through things I pushed to the back of my subconscious. I was able to recognize that these thoughts were leading to certain actions and habits that I was letting consume my life. It’s a long process and I’m still actively working to correct patterns, I have slip ups but now I know to look for a deeper reason. I’ve found this significantly reduces an aggressive guilt I tend to have as my first reaction for situations that I didn’t cause.
3. You have memories that no one can touch
My favorite moment so far in my life has been one I experienced all by myself, that I know no one can touch or tarnish. I had just traveled across the country for work in a very bad period of my life. Outside factors left me feeling hopeless and anxiety ridden but here I was going to the West Coast for the first time which had always been a dream. But that week I got to disconnect from everything at home, I got to learn from experts in my passion (which is my career), I felt empowered. On the last day I traveled to see the bay in San Francisco before my afternoon flight. That morning I watched the sun rise and light up everything around me next to the Golden Gate bridge. A bridge that to me represented hopelessness from knowing that it’s a spot where a lot of people have taken their lives. The glow of this moment, the silence of the waves crashing on the beach left me speechless. I cried happy tears that day because I realized that everything was going to be okay. I smiled the whole way home. It’s beautiful to share in moments with others but I’ll never have to attach anyone else to that memory since I experienced it alone, one I needed.
4. You actually meet more people
Maybe it’s just me but I have met way more people during my solo adventures than out with a group of people. I know that I crave socialization, more specifically- I crave community. I find that when I set out to spend time with myself I often meet people in more authentic ways. There’s no bias and you usually can connect on whatever you’re both doing. For example, snowboarding is one of my favorite hobbies but not something a lot of people that I know are into. I didn’t want that to hold me back so I started frequenting a local mountain, throwing on some tunes and “shredding the gnar” however my little heart desired. I ended up finishing that season with a bunch of new pals that I’d make sure to do a run with when we crossed paths. I met people from all over the states who came out with the same goal I did. Heck, I even made friends with the bartender, I left with her knowing my usual lunch order, always having a safe place to charge my phone and having someone to give me tips on the cast iron pans I just bought. The season is over and although I typically hate winter, I can’t wait to get back out there to my seasonal home away from home, one that I discovered on my own.
5. Your intuition sharpens
Weird flex but I’m highly intuitive- when I give myself time to be. This is both a curse and a blessing. The other day I realized how now it’s not something I can push aside because of how strongly I trust myself and this voice. My newest lesson as a result of that is that ambivalence is truly not an option anymore. I know when I know because I’ve allowed myself to be perceptive from letting myself be alone with my inner voice. You learn to trust your gut feeling that you know isn’t just stemming from insecurity or anxiety. You know when you know, unfortunately this means that you no longer have the permission to use ignorance as a coping skill. You can’t ignore red flags in romantic or platonic relationships or even with yourself. This is also a blessing because you truly realize deception. You get the ownership over your actions. Whenever I react too fast it’s because I haven’t sat alone with the situation and I’m actively trying to ignore what my intuition is telling me. The truth isn’t pretty, but trusting your own truth and what you feel in your gut leads to growth. I’ve made a recent promise to only surround myself mainly with people who live honest lives, because that’s all I’m really trying to do, that’s all we have.
6. Your relationships become healthier
One thing I’ve never understood are people who move into relationships just for the comfort of being in one, but I have experienced staying in one because of the discomfort that a break up would bring. Neither are healthy. I worked hard to be comfortable with my independence, therefore I only get involved with people who support that but also supplement my life. I can now recognize when people like me for who I am versus just wanting me around to fill a void, because I don’t go in search of someone to fill a void. I’ve also realized the importance of giving each other time to just be by ourselves, since I value my alone time so much so. Of course this goes a little haywire in the dopamine and oxytocin craze of new relationships but it’s something that I’m confident that I’ll carry with me throughout future relationships.
It’s still an everyday lesson and I’m constantly growing from trying to understand myself better through alone time but I’m forever grateful for the positive aspects it has brought to my life. I encourage you to be get out there, spend some time with yourself and really enjoy what it brings to you.