Being Alone

This year is my first year living completely and utterly alone. I had a single room my sophomore year, when I was an RA, but I was still on the meal plan on campus, so I wasn’t really ever completely alone. The first few weeks of RA training (really, most of September), they kept us so busy that I didn’t realize exactly how alone I was. But over the past few weeks, I’ve definitely felt my aloneness keenly.

Though I’m the head RA in my building, and still living in a residence hall, I have an apartment. I have a closet-turned-kitchen, a living room, a bedroom, and a bathroom, all to myself. It’s a great, cute little apartment, and I love it, but GOSH to I feel isolated sometimes. I honestly spend a lot of time alone, in my room. I’m a very social person, although I do need “me” time, but lately, everything has been just me, by myself. I’ve realized, that the only big difference between now and before is that I’m eating alone, and cooking for one.

My friends teased me last year about how I’d be cooking for myself and no one else. Before, meals were always a very social time. Sometimes, it was the only time all day that I would spend hanging out with my friends. I think that meals are important in that way. Before college, I’d eat with my family, at home, around the table. I know that not every family does that, but GOSH was it some of my favorite time ever. And then in college, my friends became my family, and we ate together.

Now, it’s completely different. Eating is a very…lonely affair. And when it comes down to it, I think it’s taken some of the joy out of eating for me. Having to cook is certainly a bit of an experience, since I haven’t had to cook before. But the actual eating is just…going through the motions.

I don’t know how to feel about it. But I think that recently, this has been the key to my feelings of loneliness. I think that in many ways, it’s not good for me to spend so much time by myself. For one, I get almost nothing done when I feel lonely because I’m always spending time on the internet, or talking to people online because it makes me feel like there are other people out there, and not like I’m on my own little island without communication with the outside world.

Second, I have too much time to think, and too much time to get down on myself. I’ve battled with a lot of negativity, especially when stressed, these past few weeks, and that bothers me. I like being my happy, bubbly self, and it makes me feel even worse to think about how down I feel.

Thirdly, I start, because of that stress, to set, believe it or not, HIGHER expectations for myself. And then when I fail to meet them, I’m just a ball of misery. Eventually, yes, I come out of it–usually with the help of my friends, and spending time with them–but I don’t like the cycle. And I want to break it. I’m a firm believer of mind over matter, and I hope that even writing this post will help. I haven’t been feeling as bad lately, mostly due to a lot of quality time spent with both family and friends, but midterms are about to happen, my life is getting busier, and I have a lot to do. Which, overall, means more time spent in my room, by myself.

So, does anyone have an advice on how to handle my loneliness? Please please let me know, and share any stories you might have. It’ll help.

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11 thoughts on “Being Alone

  1. A couple nitty-gritty suggestions:

    * This is why I read novels when I’m eating by myself. It’s like having a whole world filled with people right in my hands. Textbooks or non-fiction don’t do it for me, it’s got to be a novel.

    * Talk radio, as long as it’s engaging, can also help. I sometimes listen to call-in advice shows while eating.

    * Can you invite people over for dinner? It’s also a great way of forcing yourself to pick up more cooking skills — or forcing your friends to teach you theirs!

  2. Quick question first: Did you drop your meal plan entirely? (I, too, was a head resident and had my own apartment as part of it, as an undergrad, but I never dropped the meal plan. Since most of my friends were also in Res. Life, I wanted to be able to have meals with them!)

    I found that getting a one-meal-a-day plan later, in grad school, enabled me to share a meal with friends who lived in grad housing, even though I didn’t. I’m not sure how much I spent getting it for those two years, but it was worth every penny. Eating alone day after day does get lonely. The way I used to cope was having the TV on when I would eat, but I don’t like that solution much, since I never really enjoyed my food very much when I had the boob tube on.

    Can you organize a “dinner group” among your fellow head RAs? Depending on how many are interested, you could each be responsible for an entree, side, vegie, dessert, etc. and switch off. It would at least give you a social outlet to look forward to with regard to meals.

    Good luck.

  3. When I lived alone, dinner for me would be a plate of canned spinach with sauteed mushrooms. When I moved in with my now-husband, we began cooking wonderful meals together. So, I understand what you’re saying.

    I came from a large family, so when I moved out on my own, I also battled loneliness. I don’t know if I really ever overcame it, but I found comfort in going to a local crowded coffee house several nights a week to work on school stuff and just check email and messageboards, etc… Just being around people itself helped me feel not so alone. I also think my loneliness is the reason why I have five cats. I don’t know if you’re able to own a pet while living in a residence hall, but my furbabies helped ease my sense of loneliness quite a bit.

    I know you say your apartment is small, but have you thought of hosting small dinner parties for friends? I bet many other students in the residence hall are also lonely, especially first-year students. Maybe you could organize a bi-weekly or monthly dinner at rotating restaurants as a way to help both you and the students you monitor.

  4. The cycle you describe is familiar to me. I lived alone for seven years following the breakup of a ten-year relationship. I felt fidgety and strange if my friends were busy and I had to spend a lot of time by myself, especially on the weekends. A big shift happened for me when I started to ask the question: what would I find fun to do right now? What do I want to do for fun? And then doing it. (No need to ask anyone else what they would like to do!) I went on a lot of solitary hikes and I explored the city I live in and I started to get back into creative activities that I’d put aside years before. I got over feeling like a loser because I wasn’t constantly surrounded by people. Instead, I began to value the time by myself as an opportunity to do nice things for myself and to really figure out what I was interested in. Also, I found that having a pet helped a lot. I’m sure that you could at least sneak a fish into your campus apartment, if not a cat or a dog.

    Two books that might help:
    Alone! alone!: lives of some outsider women by Rosemary Dinnage
    and
    Solitude: a return to the self by Anthony Storr

  5. I love living and eating alone honestly, but not all the time. Maybe try to set up a couple of nights a week where you rotate having dinner at a couple different friend’s houses or something? And then when you DO eat alone you can appreciate it more.

    (I love eating alone because then I can eat whatever I want without having to worry about other people and their pesky preferences.)

  6. I’d say set up times to eat with friends in your building. I bet your tiny little kitchen is a lot cleaner than the communal kitchen (if my college is anything to judge by). I bet people would much rather make a meal there.

    The hard part with friends I have who are head RAs is that underage drinking and smoking can’t go on around them. Even regular RAs that can’t go on around them on campus, and I had a RA friend who had to avoid house parties until she turned 21 lest some student see her and tell on her. So when it comes down to it they don’t get invited places just in case.

    Maybe your friends don’t do any of that sort of thing, but if they do and they aren’t coming around, it might not be you, it might be the job.

  7. Living in a dorm has it’s ups and downs. There are a lot of advantages, though. The idea of having a dinner and inviting your residents is a brilliant idea. You could even post a sign-up sheet outside your door and then have them sign-up. Then, maybe you all could carpool together to the store (or catch the bus) to buy the items.

    When I was living in the dorm, we did group activities together. We went to see basketball games, plays, had bingo nights, etc. Also, when you are feeling really lonely, maybe you could leave your dorm open. That way, people walking by could visit you. Start advertising activities and posting flyers around the dorm. Ask the other RA’s how they handle loneliness.

    Good luck!

  8. Yes! Invite people over – I lived in a residential college for… a very long time (it was convenient!) and when I left I didn’t realise how used I was to having society on tap. Eventually I made myself initiate contact with at least one person a week and then it snowballed.

    It doesn’t have to be dinner, either. Study sessions, movie nights, bad movie nights (heckling required), games of Dictionary (is that just me?).

    As for being lonely when its just you – the happiest, most embarrassing music you have (the sort you don’t necessarily put on when others are around) helps :) Actually, all the things you mightn’t do when others are around – unlikely breakfasts, fabulous dressing gowns, dancing in the living room. I put on the radio or books on tape or movies on the commentary track and pursue non-internet hobbies (translation, illustration, sewing).

  9. O My God! It feels as though you wrote down exactly what I was thinking and feeling but just beginning to realize..
    I am married but have not yet been lucky in finding a job. And man! Staying home all alone from morning till evening can drive a person totally mad!!! I mean, all my friends are working or studying or abroad or having babies!! So, I am like in this lonelysphere!!! It really drains out every ounce of “happiness” from you. Doesn’t it… :(
    So even though you may think I would be the worst one to help you out of this loneliness phase, I’m sure I could be of help as I am also struggling for the same thing!!!
    Try talking over the phone or else joining a club and meeting new people and instead of staying home and cooking for yourself, try going out with your food and sitting maybe in a park or somewhere of the sort where you could meet new people or could end up having someone to talk to…

    http://4mgiselle.wordpress.com

  10. Wow, sounds like your in quite the predicament. No matter what though you’ll have to learn how to deal with being alone so that you can get through, at least this school year. I’m not sure if I will have great advice for you (I LOVE being alone :P!) But I’ll try.

    I find when your alone with your thoughts it’s a great time to really plan and strategize your next big project or even the next day. Efficiency comes from planning, and what other time is better for it than when your alone. Everyone gets lonely, but I think the best way to deal with it would be not to dwell in that feeling. You’ve mentioned that when your alone you have negative thoughts and feelings about yourself. But here is what I say to you.

    You will always have you. You’ll have to learn how to love yourself. I mean, your already the best you you can be. So embrace that fact and move on. Everyone has such great and unique gifts that we tend to over look most of the time. Being alone shouldn’t be a time that you get depressed about yourself, it should be a time that you celebrate yourself. I do artwork when I’m alone, it’s my outlet. I’m sure you have something you put time and effort into as well. Take all of those emotions/feelings channel them into something positive for you and others in whatever your outlet is :D

    Well, thats by best advice. If it didn’t help then thats ok. But I just wanted to let you know. No matter how much time passes or what changes around you, whether your in a room alone, in a huge crowd or on mount everest, you’ll always have yourself. So in that fact I always find happiness. Sometimes it’s ok for you to be your own friend, lol! Alright I’m done :P

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