Dear Hannah Lee,
I understand loneliness happens in college and that it’s normal even, but I struggle sometimes with accepting it even though I know I have incredible friends. How can I begin being OK with being alone and occasionally being lonely?
Dear Lone Wolf,
It’s hard to put a finger on why we experience loneliness in a place where we are constantly surrounded by our friends. It seems like an emotional and situational paradox, right?
Maybe we’re hanging out in our room on a Wednesday night with Netflix and a glass of wine. Or we could be in the middle of a social gathering with friends milling about, laughing and bonding with each other. Either way, without warning, this inexplicable feeling of loneliness suddenly hits us like an ice-cold wave that we never saw coming.
That’s just how mental states and emotions sometimes work, whether or not they always make sense. Even if we dislike some feelings, they’re simply a part of what make us human. And that should be enough to justify why we feel lonely even when we know our amazing friends are there for us.
In my experience, feeling lonely comes and goes in waves. One minute I may be cheering about canceled social plans. But the next I’m desperately texting everyone in my phone contacts, hoping someone, anyone, is up for an alternative activity.
In such times, you can usually recruit a friend willing to tolerate you for an hour or two (I’ve found that a hot pizza or cheesy bread are good bargaining chips). Settle in for a movie, or concoct a spontaneous adventure to take. Laugh together. Enjoy their company. Soak up those social vibes and let them heal the lonely feelings.
Worst-case scenario, everyone is already busy. In such moments, I accept that the loneliness will pass … eventually. When I need that quality time or a distraction from my own feelings, who better to rise to the occasion than my pals Me, Myself and I?
You know yourself pretty well, so amuse yourself with whatever you like or need in that moment. For me, that might be a long walk along the Kokosing Gap Trail or a phone call with a relative or friend whom I haven’t spoken to in a long time. Maybe you need a nap, your favorite treat from the Bookstore or a feel-good TV show.
Also, let’s be real. Going anywhere at Kenyon and not seeing friends or acquaintances is downright impossible. People like to complain about this, but work it to your advantage. Step into Peirce, the KAC or the library (well, maybe not anymore) and wait for the people to come to you. It’s the best reminder that people — including some you hadn’t expected — do love you and crave your company.
What are your burning questions? Don’t know what to do about your hookup’s return from a semester abroad? Trying to rein in reactions to out-of-control email threads? Submit anonymously on tinyurl.com/kenyonqs or ask Hannah Lee at firstname.lastname@example.org and she can offer the written equivalent of a hug.