The Collegian
Saturday, July 02, 2022

Why is everybody afraid of being alone?

Why are people on this campus so afraid of being alone? And I'm not talking about fearing for their lives while walking through the woods at night. I'm talking about in broad daylight, standing in line waiting for a coffee.

In that line at 8:15 in the morning, people can't even stand idle for a minute without whipping out their cell phones to pretend to text someone.

Why, though? To show all the eager onlookers that they do in fact have friends to text? Does anyone really care?

In D-Hall we're mortified to eat any meal alone other than breakfast, and even then we have to eat cowering in the back of the third room.

If we enter alone, the first thing we do is scan the room frantically for someone to sit with, and if we can't find anyone it's a calamity.

But why is being alone something to hide or be scared of? Because people will see that we're not with friends, assume that we don't have any at all and suddenly we'll become a complete social pariah?

Even staying in for a night of solitude on the weekend earns amused looks of uncertainty, while walking into parties alone is practically unheard of, at least for girls.

This brings me to another point: the dichotomy between boys and girls when it comes to being alone.

There are some things that it seems hard for guys to do alone, like going to the gym or a sports game.

But there are many, many more circumstances in which girls can't be alone. Is it because popularity is more important to us than for guys? Are we just naturally less independent?

I realize that Richmond is a small school, so there's bound to be more focus on little details - like who's doing what and when and with whom - that would be much less noticeable at a bigger school.

At times Richmond's size gives it an atmosphere similar to that of a high school's, where maintaining one's image is a high priority for many.

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In reality, though, this isn't high school. We are legal adults. We left our high school days behind when we came here, which for me was a relief, and that's where they should stay.

Our sense of who we are should come from the things we say and do, not from the people we do or don't sit with in D-Hall.

In the movie "Into the Wild," the main character, Chris McCandless, after much turmoil with his parents, decides that a person can only be happy if he removes himself from civilization.

He embarks on a journey of self-realization, and at 23 years old he burns all of his money, cuts up his I.D. cards and makes his way to the most remote part of Alaska.

He lives there alone for two years in an abandoned bus, feeding off the land, enjoying the beauty of nature and luxuriating in his no-strings-attached lifestyle.

At the end though, after he eats a poisonous plant and is dying a slow, painful death in the bus, he begins to think about his parents.

Tears streaming down his face, he comes to the realization that "happiness [is] only real when shared," and then dies in a pool of regret.

I thoroughly believe his realization is true. When it comes down to it, one's happiness is maximized in the company of others. A beautiful landscape or a good grade on a test is enjoyable, but much more so when shared with someone else.

So no, I'm not recommending that people drop out of society and flee to Alaska.

I am saying, though, that some solitude is a good thing. It promotes self-reflection and helps one develop into his or her own person.

And it is only through self-exploration that we can discover who we truly are, rather than just holding a mirror up to our peer group. As Jimmy Carter said, "Testing oneself is best when done alone."

America is one of the few countries that reveres individuality as one of its core values, and we should honor and appreciate this.

It's vital, especially now, in college, when everyone's trying to figure out who they are and what they want to do with the rest of their lives.

I think that in priding oneself as an individual, people are much more likely to go after what they desire, instead of what the trend is among their friends.

If we're less worried about having someone attached to our hip for image's sake all the time, it'll be much easier to define who we are, as a separate entity and to go after what we want in life.

Who cares if people think you're a loner for sitting in D-Hall or walking into a party alone? If you ask me, it shows an admirable sense of confidence and individuality.

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