The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

Opinion | Time alone is not time wasted

Opinion+%7C+Time+alone+is+not+time+wasted
Lux Lin

I spent the month before moving in asking my parents for advice on making the most of my college experience. And, of course, I got a lot of generic answers: Manage your time, study hard and join new clubs.

But I knew my brother would have the best advice for me since his college experience would be closest to mine. When I asked him for advice, he told me to force myself out there. That I should never spend time in my room when I could be in a public setting, and talk to as many new people as I could.

Now, having spent my first month doing just that, I can confidently say that it sucks.

I’ll admit, his advice worked, and I’ve had a fun time in new social settings, but I was left tired and burnt out from constantly being around people. 

College is meant to be a time of discovery and new beginnings. That can only happen if students rise to the occasion, which is why most college experiences are built around getting students out of the dorm and into the world.

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Most of us have seen the signs of club activities and university-sponsored events or scrolled through our friends’ reposts of meeting times and dates. The message is clear: Get up and get out there.

But what we take for granted is the time we spend alone. College takes away your personal space through roommates and public lounges. It encourages you to develop your social skills, but it also strips you of your privacy and personal time.

I only recently got time for myself when my roommate went back home for a day, and I felt better in those 24 hours than throughout the busy, social week I had prior. The same alone time I was told to avoid was incredibly comforting and simple, and just what I needed for my Sunday off.

There’s a social stigma around being alone. We often equate being alone with being lonely and struggle to find ways to get out of isolating situations. This can push us to always be around people we think we need to be, even if it makes us feel tired or uncomfortable.

Yet being alone is so beneficial to our lives. It lets us stop and reflect on ourselves without needing to worry about the opinions of others. It can increase productivity and give you time to plan your next steps. It can also just be an escape from whatever else is going on around us.

The problem with the college experience is that it forgets these benefits, focusing only on the stigmas. We forgo any isolation in favor of constantly being around people. 

Additionally, we can beat ourselves up over alone time, rather than experiencing it to its fullest. Our focus can skew towards our fear of missing out, or FOMO, which ruins the time we’ve gotten to ourselves.

It takes time and discipline to develop this intrapersonal intelligence since it requires letting go of our preconceived notions of what is and is not wasted time. If we focus on ourselves rather than on activities we could have been doing, we can gain a better understanding of our social balance, plans for the future and other important components of our being that we don’t often think about.

Every person is different, and we all appreciate different levels of this isolation. But rather than constantly seeking out the company of others, we might want to take a step back and ask ourselves how often we’ve enjoyed our own company.

I know I will spend more time alone at college, and rather than being upset at myself for not going out with friends, I’ll enjoy what time I have with myself to the fullest.

 

Amartya is a freshman in LAS.

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