By Shina Patel
Oscar Wilde once said, “I think it’s very healthy to spend time alone. You need to know how to be alone and not be defined by another person.”
I think a common mistake of people in our generation is to surround themselves with people at every waking moment of the day. And we do it because it’s easy. We get up and the first thing we do is text in the group chat to set a plan in motion to meet up for breakfast. We go to class and we divide our attention between the professor and our friend sitting next to us. And you know that you have a class with at least one of your friends because you planned it during registration, obviously.
But an underrated notion is the idea of spending time alone. In my time in London I’ve learned that spending time alone not only is a very inevitable part of life, but very healthy and enjoyable. As much as people try and avoid it, there are going to be times where you have to do things alone such as, run errands, go shopping, or even eat a meal in public. (Gasp!) But don’t worry. I have found that there is something freeing about being on your own schedule and moving at a pace that is perfect just for you. I’m tired of putting things off because it doesn’t fit into everyone’s schedules.
The other day I woke up to a beautiful sunny day and the only thing I wanted to do was go to Hyde Park and find the perfect bench to read my new book. It was 11 am and my flat mates were still sleeping. I thought about maybe waiting until someone woke up and seeing if they wanted to go with me. But I hated that I would just be wasting valuable sun time by waiting around for someone to wake up. Why should I give up what I want to do? My flat mates weren’t giving up their precious sleep time and I wasn’t going to miss the chance to relax in the park. So I went to Hyde Park, alone. Shocking, I know. But I was able to grab a coffee, walk around, appreciate the natural beauty of London, and I found my spot. I found the perfect bench on a path that didn’t get a lot of foot traffic so that I wouldn’t be interrupted and I was able to read my book in peace. And while this act of going to the park and reading a book may seem simple and trivial, I felt it to be oddly liberating. I relished in the fact that I was at the mercy of no one else but myself.
I began to discover that not only did I not mind spending time alone, but I was actually enjoying it. Spending time alone has helped me figure out who I am, when others aren’t always around. It has helped me become more comfortable in my own skin. I don’t feel self-conscious about being out alone because I am doing it by choice. I’m okay with wandering the Victoria and Albert Museum by myself because I am able to stop and stare at the exhibits for as long as I want or I can skip over some parts and come back to them on my time.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that I hate spending time with my friends or even my flat mates here in London; I cherish the time I have with them and wouldn’t trade it in for anything in the world. I just also enjoy some quality time with myself. Spending time in London has taught me something; I am the most important person in my life. While this may sound selfish, it’s the truth. I need to make Shina happy before I can worry about other people’s problems. Alone time allows me to make myself happy and I am a better person because of it. So next time you doubt yourself about going to Eick alone, don’t. I know I won’t.