on being alone.


I’ve gotten to know myself simply by spending a good amount of time alone.

It began ten years ago when I became an RA in college. (BTW, if you want to know the theme of 2019, reflect back to 2009 and it will show you some major breadcrumbs) It was my first experience living in my own space. 
A lot of the time I was lonely and I threw myself into social activities, trying to stay as connected as possible. 
I did this unconsciously until about four years ago when an ex called me on it. “Whenever I leave, you immediately make plans with your friends.” I wrote it off, playing the card of “I have a busy important life and a lot of people in it” but the comment stayed with me. I knew I had acted defensive and responded from a place of ego. I questioned what could be under this need to defend myself. 
Eventually I saw my own bullshit.

My own escapist behavior. 
My need to feel validated. 
My fear of being alone, left out and forgotten. 
My desire to fit in by doing activities that weren’t in my highest calling.

After reflecting on my behavior, my social outings became more conscious. I stopped going to gatherings unless I specifically felt called to or joyful about. And at first it was pretty uncomfortable to be with myself. 

I think one of the things that scare us most about solitude is the realization that we have immense power to do whatever we want with our lives. To know our lives aren’t dictated by the next group gathering or happy hour can be equally terrifying as it is thrilling.

We live in a culture that is based off of fitting in. We see this early in life when we go through the schooling system and almost every young person is striving for validation from their peers.

Of course fitting in serves a purpose. 
Humans are a social species. 
And breaking out of the norm once threatened our lives: thousands of years ago if we were banished from the tribe we would risk our survival. 
Nowadays that same fear instinct protects us from social isolation and gives us a place in society. 
But for most of us, socializing is a programmed behavior that acts as a crutch rather than a conscious tool used to create a healthy, balanced life. 
What do we do with our time once we wake up to this realization?

We can’t help but break away from the social construct. 
That in itself causes friendships to collapse, sometimes out of lack of nurturing and sometimes out of others’ projected fears once you start to do things differently. 
A lot of deep self work helped me stop seeking validation from others. Solo travel was another huge factor. Meeting other open minded friends along my travels had a huge impact as well. 
I spent a lot of time detoxing myself from group think. Then a funny thing happened. A lot of the group activities I had written off in my past felt joyous to attend. But this time, I approached them differently. 
It was like I had gone through the necessary time of being alone, and realized how finite everything was, and had a deeper appreciation for these experiences. 
In truth, I didn’t “need” them anymore but found that I simply enjoyed them. 

But it’s on my terms now. 

I say no a lot more these days and have no guilt about it.

We’re always somewhere along this scale. And we can expect to fluctuate from times of wanting solitude to being more social. 
But I invite you to ask yourself your intentions each time you go out with friends. Is it in your best interest? Do you feel joyous going? Or is it an obligation? Are you afraid to say no or fear being alone? 
Are you giving yourself an equal balance of SOUL-O time and social time?

Jen Cannon