Learning to be alone

Learning to be alone

Written on 02/27/2020
Helana Mulder

From hating it to enjoying it

Written by Helana Mulder

I am an extrovert. I get it from my dad. My dad can walk into any store or building and immediately strike up a conversation with a stranger, talking about his real estate business or his love of sports or anything that comes to mind.

I love being around people more than anything—I get all my energy from it. I’m in my third year at a small school in Hamilton, Ont., called Redeemer University. Because the school is so small, everyone knows everyone, and there is always someone to hang out with. My first two years of college were full of late nights with friends hanging out in our townhouse dorms or at the school “doing homework” (but actually just talking and wasting time). The only time I spent alone was when I was sleeping.

So, when this year forced me to be alone, I hated it. My close friends from first and second year were either living off-campus or had moved away, and I had chosen to remain on campus as a resident advisor for incoming students. I was living with six first-years instead of my best friends. I had to be “on” all the time for at least the first month. By mid-October, my tank was empty.

Instead of going to the library with my friends or hopping from dorm to dorm, I was sitting up in my room doing homework or relaxing. Instead of staying up until 3:00 in the morning watching movies or telling stories, I was going to bed earlier because I was exhausted. It was a lifestyle I wasn’t used to and didn’t want.

When I first noticed I was spending more time alone, I remember being angry and frustrated. Some nights when my friends were busy or back at their houses, I would become bitter and upset over the fact that I was spending these evenings without people to hang out with. Part of me was mad at God for letting my life be the way it was. He knew I loved being around people and yet He wasn’t giving me the opportunity to be energized by others.

Now, I’m able to reflect on the past few months. Yes, I still spend a lot of my nights alone, but I’ve come to realize this is exactly what I needed. I was becoming reliant on people for energy instead of God. I had been burnt out. I needed to learn how to be alone and how to use my time differently so I could form deeper relationships with my first-year dormmates and with God.

Solitude was never the spiritual practice I saw coming. There were always other ones like prayer, worship, and community that were more up my alley. Now, I encourage everyone to try embracing solitude, especially if they are in a dorm community.

I can’t imagine how my mental health would be right now if I never had time alone this semester. Being with people all the time—while fulfilling in the moment—would leave me drained and exhausted afterward. Learning to hear God’s voice in the stillness and even unwanted silence has been one of my biggest blessings this year. His still, small voice speaks in encouraging whispers and reminds me that He is with me always, even when I feel alone. 

So, instead of blaming God for forcing me to be alone, I’m seeing this solitude as a gracious gift He used to teach me to lean on Him for energy and strength, especially during this time of stress. When I’m feeling especially overwhelmed by assignments, personal relationships, and upcoming events, taking those few moments of complete silence and breathing in God’s love has been the boost of energy and love I now rely on every day.