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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Independence means solitude, which is a good thing

Hollywood and pop culture at large perpetuate what I’ve come to call the “college is better than high school myth,” which states that, err … college is better than high school.

The classic narrative is that no matter how downtrodden you were in high school, how lonely or unpopular or bored, you’ll arrive in college and Poof! life will instantly become a 24-hour fun-fest filled with best friends, parties and hooking up.

Recently this was best exemplified in the Academy Award winning “Boyhood,” in which the main character is shown to meet his best friend and a new girlfriend within five minutes of arriving on campus.

While that may happen for SOME people (and they’re the worst honestly, hate them,) most will find that college is equal parts exciting and lonely. Everything is new. You have more freedom than ever before. You don’t know anyone. It’s Friday night and no one has invited you to anything.

College is about not only trying new things and meeting new people, but also learning to live comfortably with yourself and occasionally relishing the feeling of loneliness.

As Rainer Maria Rilke once wrote, “But when you notice that it is vast, you should be happy; for what (you should ask yourself) would a solitude be that was not vast; there is only one solitude, and it is vast, heavy, difficult to bear … But that must not confuse you. What is necessary, after all, is only this: solitude, vast inner solitude. To walk inside yourself and meet no one for hours—that is what you must be able to attain.”

Student life features the seeming contradiction of making you busier than ever before, but also allowing you more free time than you’ve ever known. Students who choose to live on campus will find this especially true; now that you’re out of your childhood home, there are no more family birthdays, grandparent visits or regular-old chores to occupy your time.

And no matter how good you are at socializing, no matter how many parties you go to or clubs you join, there is going to be at least one night in the dorm where you look around and realize, “Crap! I have nothing to do.”

What you choose to do with this time will absolutely shape your experience. Will you wallow in self-pity and call home crying to mom and dad? Or worse, that boyfriend/girlfriend you’re hoping to keep things up with long distance? Or, instead, will you seize the opportunity to learn new things about yourself, reflecting on life up until this point and deciding what you want it to be moving ahead?

Worst-case scenario: you can at least use the time to empty out that Netflix queue you’ve been building up steadily since 2009.

Don’t get me wrong; college absolutely is better than high school in terms of the day-to-day minutia. You can shape your own schedule, eat whatever you want whenever you want, stay up stupid late and then suffer the consequences in the morning without the additional annoyance of your sister berating you for making her late because she had to wait for you to make it down to the car.

It’s really just the best. But not 24 hours a day, every day. Realize this, adjust your expectations accordingly, and you’ll manage to make those lonely nights a productive experience rather than a depressing one.

Oh! And if you do happen to be one of those “Boyhood”-esque social stars who have no idea what I’m talking about, try and look around the dorm before you go out the next time and see if you can’t bring along some of your less socially-capable hall mates. They’ll thank you for it, and you’ll have a more diverse friend base for your troubles. 

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