I'm a very social person. People have described me as talkative, friendly, gregarious, extroverted, warm, and open. I always feel the need to connect with people and I love long conversations. While I appreciate my alone time (especially after busy nights of work or when I'm sick), I typically do not fare well under it. However, at the end of this school year, I've found myself spending my days off with little company. As a server who works most weekends, I find it difficult to find friends free at the same time that I am. It was then that I decided to experiment with loneliness.
What I've found is that I can use this time, time that I have not had in my recent past, to grow into myself. In the past two days (both days off), I have learned new guitar tricks, written for pleasure, read multiple books, practiced my singing, lifted weights, tried new recipes, and most importantly, taken time to reconnect with my faith and go to Confession (hey, I needed it!). I've found that my quiet time has helped to regenerate my soul and led me to develop hobbies and interests. I've also found that, when I have run into friends and met new people, I appreciate encounters more. I've learned to value what other people have to say, rather than just waiting for my turn to talk.
When school is in session, other factors split my attention and consume my life. I pay my own rent, so I'm constantly working, in addition to taking a full course load (and working as hard as I can on my schoolwork). I also tend to take leadership positions and fill my time with extracurriculars and social events, anything to build my resume and increase my networks. In addition, I find a need to see my friends as much as possible and keep maintaining relationships. The little quiet time I get is usually the hour I spend at Mass, if that. As I'm constantly with people, I feel the need to talk all the time. I tend to speak more impulsively and I find silence impossible to deal with, as I feel either too lazy or too lonely. With the stress I experience during school, I am very surprised my health (emotional or physical) has endured as much as it has.
I'm finding that I'm learning to deal with myself in healthier ways. I'm more aware of my flaws but I don't feel they are as insurmountable (as my need for perfectionism has lowered significantly). I feel more motivated to work on them and to become a better person. I feel a stronger drive to create, to leave something of value. I don't feel the need to fill every space with words or to retreat away from the world as much. I feel refreshed, stronger, and more ready for challenges. I can appreciate my time with people more.
Most importantly, I'm learning that I have to rely on my own inner strength, the strength only God gives, when challenges arise. I need that strength to humble myself when I need help and to give to others, when they need help. However, developing that strength is an inner process, one that needs to happen when I'm one on one with God. For if I can learn to be strong when it's only me, I can be strong when I'm against an adversary. As a result, I'm much more confident, peaceful and self-assured.
I guess I'm not so lonely after all :)