To: me. Love: me

My biggest fear is being alone. 

When I was younger, loneliness did not appear to be such a foe. Moments spent alone enabled me to seek refuge in my imagination. There, I could conjure perfect friends who said perfect things at the perfect time. There, I could silence intrusive thoughts dwelling on whether my teacher had begun to dislike me because I was a little too chatty. There, among vast flower fields and vibrant pink skies, I was free — free from judgment, free from the anxiety of what others thought of me, free from the disease to please. 

But now loneliness no longer feels replete with endless abandon. Instead, it seems to project an unflattering reflection of me. It appears as a testament to my inadequacies, as proof of unrealized fears that there is something wrong with me. As I delve deeper and deeper into adulthood, it seems to me that our self-identities and perceptions are increasingly contingent on our relationships with others. 

Are we succeeding in our roles as friends, students, professionals, children and partners? Are we fulfilling our obligations to all the people in our lives?

Thus, when we are alone, living our lives just as ourselves, we are forced to observe our identities as independent human beings. Our minds veer to pondering abstract qualities — traits that cannot be so easily quantified by external observations: Are we successful? Are we worthy? Are we enough?

Socializing enables us to escape these painful thoughts; loneliness forces us to confront them. And so, we spend much of our lives running away from loneliness, forgetting that we can seek company with ourselves.

But is perpetual socialization healthy?

A psychological study by the German Socio-Economic Panel showed that, “The highest level of social contact frequency was not associated with substantially better health and longer life than the moderate frequency.” In fact, going beyond daily interaction frequency was sometimes related to “higher mortality risks and lower survival time.”

Moreover, spending time with others all the time can hinder us from availing the benefits of being alone. Being alone offers you an opportunity to know yourself better — to understand the things that make you happy, to reflect on your strengths and shortcomings and to build confidence in yourself to navigate different complex situations.

Additionally, being alone helps us distill our own inner thoughts from external voices. In the modern age of social media, we are constantly inundated with notifications from others. We’ve become so addicted to the dopamine rushing through our veins when we have an unread message or a pending app alert that we no longer seek joy in hearing our own voices or see the value in having reflective, productive conversations with ourselves. 

There is no doubt that there is nothing in life like being loved by another. I don’t think I’ve known another feeling like the one that pulses in my heart when my mother washes my hair, her touch more gentle on my skin than my own, or when my father’s steady voice echoes in my ear when I’m in a crisis, a steady reminder that everything will be okay, or when my sister “mistakenly” rolls over in the morning to wrap me in a hug (she loves me!). 

Through spending time with others, we learn who we want to be, how to treat those around us and gain a keener understanding of the world around us. Relationships with others open our eyes up to the world in ways we’ve never seen before, igniting an appreciation for things we never thought we could love. 

I never thought I’d crave going to the gym, but friendship taught me how. I never thought that being outside in the rain would make me happy, but friendship taught me how. I never thought my playlist would swing between Drake’s “Rich Baby Daddy Flex” and the soft Bollywood music I listened to growing up, but friendship taught me how. 

Relationships with others are beautiful.

But so is a relationship with yourself. Because it is when we are by ourselves, listening to the quiet hum of our own mind, that we learn who we are — what we value, what we prize, what we can never give up. And we must know who we are now if we ever wish to discover who we will become — we are the foundations of our tomorrow, and that foundation must be unshakeable.

There was a moment that I experienced this past weekend that I know I will treasure for the rest of my life — I went on a walk alone in the Duke Gardens at night while it was raining. Not a single soul lingered on the cobblestone pathways. Suddenly, I felt an airy freedom. I closed the umbrella and let the rain cling to my hair. I was dancing, spinning, running, liberated by the thought that no one was watching. 

In that moment, my heart was filled with peace, knowing that I alone was enough for myself. 

That epiphany is crucial to your self-development. You are the only person who is going to be with you for every second of the rest of your life

Today, I challenge you to do something by yourself that you’d normally do with others: take a walk to the Duke pond alone. Dance alone. Eat dinner alone. 

It may feel odd at first, but I think you’ll feel things you’ve never felt before, and maybe see the world through a lens you’ve never seen before. 

And I think you’ll discover a friend you’ve had all along:


Advikaa Anand is a Trinity sophomore. Her column typically runs on alternating Thursdays.

Advikaa Anand | Opinion Managing Editor

Advikaa Anand is a Trinity sophomore and an opinion managing editor of The Chronicle's 119th volume.


Share and discuss “To: me. Love: me” on social media.