College is a place to become independent, to take advantage of the freedom that exists away from parents and social pressures. Yet, at CMC, it feels to me like loneliness, or being seen alone, has become a terrible fear. In a way, my dependence on others has increased in college. Whereas at home I could spend a day by myself, watching Netflix, completing homework, running, and doing family chores, the concept of spending an entire 24 hours alone now seems unheard of—not necessarily because I want the company, but because I feel there’s a tacit pressure to be social or productive.
Meals are a perfect example: we seem to have maintained a high school cafeteria-esque routine, scared to be the one eating alone. Sometimes I’ll find people I haven’t talked to for a month in my phone and rope them into “catching up” when I probably wouldn’t have gone through the trouble if I didn’t have to suffer a meal alone. Take out boxes, too, often take up more time to fill with food, bring back to the room, and eat, than just eating at the dining hall. Yet, many times I’ve told myself “I’m just too busy to eat in the dining hall now,” when faced with the prospect of eating alone.
I began realizing this reality after spring break when I visited a friend from UCLA who told me she often goes into Westwood to grab a meal by herself, and that some days she’ll spend the whole day alone. I paused at this comment. I had not once spent a day alone on campus in more than a semester at CMC.
What’s the problem with company? Isn’t it wonderful that we have the ability to be surrounded by so many people we know? Yes, to an extent. It becomes a problem the moment it starts prohibiting actions we would otherwise want to do. I’ve noticed that this fear of loneliness during meals, also present in decisions to stay in on Thursdays and Saturdays, is preventing me from something that was a big part of my life before school, and something that will be a big part of my life after school: being alone.
A huge part of my formative years involved listening to music shut up in a room, able to yell along or think quietly at my own pace. The time alone was a necessity for my growth. It allowed me to develop opinions and shape my identity without outside influences. Most critically, it freed me from relying on others for validation or happiness. Here at school, we have the access to so many resources that it’s the perfect opportunity to find exactly what gives us fulfillment, and it would be a shame not to take advantage of those opportunities because we unknowingly lost the independence that got us here.
This could be a typical freshman reaction to college; maybe as you gain seniority you realize the importance of solitude and begin to prioritize it. Living in a single must give you some of that perspective, too. As residents of doubles and triples, however, moments alone are few and far between, and during most everyday activities such as studying, attending school-sponsored events, and working out, you find yourself accompanied by friends.
If this dependence on others continues to grow during these four years, moving on after college is going to be quite a change. As we move away from CMC to join the workforce, continue our education, or tackle creative projects all around the world, we can’t be afraid to go to a restaurant alone on a Friday night or spend a day alone with our thoughts.
I recommend relishing the time we spend alone. Instead of finding friends to study and work out with, we should try to schedule activities or afternoons for solitude. It is important that we realize how critical it is to spend moments alone, and to make an active attempt to create that time.