Gracefully transitioning from your early- to mid-20s to your late 20s and early 30s can be a somewhat clunky ascent. I say "ascent" because I like to believe that life gets better. Individuals get better with time and maturity.
The growth period is a consistent and steady rise from old behaviors and patterns to new and healthier versions of the person you envision yourself to be — or rather, the person you’re proud of being.
During the early adulthood years, you often find yourself in a barrage of human interaction that starts off energizing but ends with resentment, confusion and a sense of false security. There’s a fine balance between socializing, nurturing and tending to your friends while remembering to do the same for yourself.
But, next time you feel the need to apologize for skipping a night out or needing space, remember this:
1. When you’re alone, you’re forced to face yourself.
We all know the people who say, “I can’t be alone” or “I hate being alone.” But, when you’re alone, it's just you, your thoughts, your likes, your dislikes and your motivations. When you’re by yourself, the only person responsible for feeling your feelings is you. Yikes.
Though it can sound scarier than it is, once it’s a routine, it’s liberating. It’s never a bad idea to face what’s really going on internally, as opposed to covering it up with a schedule full of happy hour dates with acquaintances.
2. Energy is a currency.
Have you ever landed in a routine where the people in your life are all “taking it out of you”? Well, this is a danger zone. When you’re feeling emotionally or physically depleted, your life will begin to show decay.
You’ve neglected your health; your priorities get flipped upside down, and the next thing you know, you’ve spent more time and energy repairing someone else’s life than maintaining your own.
Energy should be reciprocal — even if, at times, it’s imbalanced. Ultimately, those who get your energy aren’t stealing it, they’re borrowing it. Wherever you’re spending time, you’re spending energy; wherever you’re spending energy, you’re spending life. Make sure you’re placing the energy where YOU want to be.
3. “Alone” is inevitable.
At some point, whether it’s now, three or 13 years from now, you will be alone. You may go through a breakup; you may get divorced, and your work schedule may change, making it impossible for you to see your partner or your roommate.
While you may have a partner in your life, there will be days, weeks or even months when you will feel more alone because you are together. So, what happens when you have a week to yourself and you’ve never spent the time to figure out what it is you even like?
Lonely isn’t being alone; lonely is being alone with someone (you) with whom you aren’t even familiar.
4. It’s hard to clarify what you want with so much noise.
Literal noise or figurative noise, it doesn't matter. When you find yourself clouded with the eternal buzz of plans, text messages, conversations and company, it can be difficult to hear yourself.
Or, to know that what you’re hearing is really what YOU want and not a remnant impression of what the people around you want. Silence, stillness and time to think without interruption make for the clearest path to finding your own truth.
5. Decision-making is a skill best exercised solo.
Once you do clarify what you want, you have to make it happen. The decisions you’re the most proud to make, whether that be a career change, move or partner, will almost always need to be solo activities.
You can consult friends, and you can lament to trusted advisors, but ultimately, it’s just you who lives with the decisions, so it's just you who has to make them.
When you’re decisive about your life, you convey a very clear message that you trust yourself. When you trust yourself, the way you interact with the rest of the world unfolds positively.
6. Spontaneity + Solitude = Magic
Once you’ve worked your way up to embracing your alone time, the fun will start to happen. Your friends are busy? Sweet, go see that exhibit you keep hearing about but haven’t made the time to see. When you’re by yourself, you can indulge the dormant, capricious side of yourself that wants to play.
Some of the best adventures you’ll have will be the ones with which you surprise yourself and only you get to cherish. In a world where everything is shared, solo experiences are treasured because they are, in fact, quite rare.
7. In no specific order, all of these things are better alone:
Not wearing pants, binging on Netflix and eating cereal out of a salad bowl. Reading. Listening to your very random playlist that includes both Dolly Parton and Chance the Rapper.
Dreaming about your future. Lying on the floor. Personal grooming. Stretching. Working on your Christopher Walken impression. That really good glass of wine, which your friend wouldn’t appreciate. Conversations with your mother. Conversations with God. Spontaneous jumping jacks.
8. The cliché is true: You have to love yourself first.
If your insecurities are getting the best of you, address and slay them in solitude. Ultimately, when you’re curling up to go to bed, you’re good. Whatever everyone else thinks or does is none of your business.
It turns out that embracing who you are, what you love and whom you love aren’t as complicated when you choose from your heart. That, too, is a solo activity.
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