Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Pearls of 20-something wisdom: Aloneness

When I was in high school, a nostalgic adult said to a big group of us, "You'll never have as many friends as you do now; enjoy it while you can." I looked at my two friends sitting next to me and thought, "Boy, that's depressing."

My twenties have been my most social decade, but it's also the decade I've spent the most time by myself. I'm an introverted homebody, so the uptick in alone time wasn't as difficult for me as I'm guessing it is for other people. But even though as a kid I dreamed of living all by myself so I wouldn't have to share my ice cream with anyone (I could even eat it straight from the carton!), it came with a steep learning curve.

My experience isn't unique; most people in their 20s have to get acquainted with themselves real fast due to new environments and increased independence. When you're on your own, you learn things there wasn't time or space or reason to learn before.

With that extra time and space came challenges I didn't expect to have, especially considering my independent nature. Moving out of Utah County and living in an apartment that didn't look like it was built as a volunteer project in the 1970s was exciting at first, but once things settled down and a new routine was formed, I felt a little lost. Everything had changed: my environment, the way I spent my days, my safety net of people. I slowly realized that the real test to adulthood was just beginning: adjusting to relying on myself for everything. It wasn't the budgeting and the cooking and the keeping the apartment clean that tripped me up—I already knew how to do those things. It was the not having someone around who was obligated to notice when I'd had a bad day, the sudden lack of core people outside work, the long future ahead that I had to traverse on my own.

A hole had opened up in my life, one that I always assumed would be filled by default. But it was all up to me now; the emotional support, the Friday-night entertainment, the sounding board for making decisions. I, and I alone, was responsible for all of it.

Now, a normal person would use this life change as a chance to develop new friendships and to latch on to someone to journey through life with. And while I certainly tried this tactic, I've never been much of a team player. I learn and function best on my own; this hurdle was something I had to tackle by myself.

(Before you start thinking I was lonely and forgotten for six years, let me set the record straight. I wasn't. Moving on.)

Somewhere amidst the solitude I started to figure some things out. I learned how to pray more effectively. I learned to trust, and even rely on, my Heavenly Father. I learned that I can't do everything, but I can do more than I thought I could. I learned how to fill my time with meaningful hobbies and goals. I got to know myself really well and found peace with some of my more inconvenient personality quirks.

I'm not sure I would have learned some of these things if I wasn't forced to do it on my own. If someone else was always around, I wouldn't have put in the work required to become a better, more complete version of myself. I'm lazy, I have no trouble admitting it—if somebody else can pick up the slack, I'm all too happy to let them.

It's why I'm grateful for those difficult first months living in Midvale. It's why I'm grateful I didn't marry in my early 20s like I planned. I needed some time to myself first. A lot of time, because stubborn people are slow learners.

And if you haven't had a quality aloneness period yet, I hope that some day you do. Because as it turns out, aloneness is one of the best things that could have happened for me.


  1. I super love and super relate to this all at once. Beautiful, honest writing.

    Love you.

  2. Also - I still remember that first picture.