We asked for reader submissions, and wow, did you deliver. Below you'll find a piece submitted to us from Alumna Rachel Stanley, where she wrestles with the idea of being lonely versus being alone.
We’ve all experienced periods of loneliness in our lives. Sometimes these periods of loneliness remain more vivid in our memories than the times we felt truly surrounded by love.
I remember how I felt lonely freshman year after my roommate dropped out of school because of her mental illness. I felt lonely when the fact that I was 1,300 miles away from my hometown officially sunk in. I felt lonely junior year when my boyfriend left me for another girl, and I felt lonely when we got back together just to break up again. I felt lonely as a senior when I walked past Common Grounds and didn’t recognize anyone. I felt lonely when I walked across the stage at graduation without the person I spent the last 3 years with. I felt lonely as I walked into my first class as a graduate student the day after my grandfather passed away a few weeks ago.
Even though we all experience periods of loneliness, everyone processes these feelings in their own way. At each stage of my life, isolation looked different.
Today, I am working on a new kind of alone. I am learning to enjoy it. As strange as it is, aloneness is my friend and it is different from loneliness. Loneliness happens to you, but aloneness is something you can embrace.
I’m not going to tell you that by embracing aloneness, you suddenly don’t need anyone else in your life. There is a huge difference between embracing time by yourself and thinking that you have to be entirely self-sufficient. Independence is awesome, but as humans we need community with others and guidance from God. It is important to keep praying and express your needs to those around you.
Here are 10 practical things that enabled me to be happy and alone at the same time:
- BE VULNERABLE. I learned way too late in life that people don’t care if you’re perfect. The more you are able to recognize and talk about your own faults, the more people will express their hearts to you.
- GET YOURSELF TO CHURCH. I spent my first 3 full years of college thinking chapel was enough “church” for me, but then I started attending a bilingual church in Fullerton as a class assignment. After a few weeks of dragging myself there, I began to notice a change: I was looking forward to church each week! It took some time, but I began to experience how important it is to connect with people who are different from you—whether they are in a different stage of life or a part of a different culture. There is so much to learn from them, and they have so much love to give!
- MAKE PLAYLISTS. As much as I hate to admit it, nothing helps me feel more understood than listening to Taylor Swift talk about boys or Drake talk about his feelings.
- CALL YOUR MOM, DAD, SISTER, BROTHER, GRANDPARENT, BEST FRIEND, DOG, ECT. They won’t be there forever. I lost two grandparents during my time at Biola, and I wish I could go back and deepen my relationships with both of them.
- GO TO THE BIOLA COUNSELING CENTER. Seriously, when else in life can you get therapy for $20 a session? If you feel like no one will listen, check out the BCC. It’s their job to listen to and help you! These therapists are currently attending Rosemead, which means they understand what it means to be a student with an insane schedule. Oh, and don’t feel weird about seeking out therapy. It doesn’t have to be shameful. You are working on yourself and that is commendable.
- MAKE USE OF THE PRAYER ROOMS ON CAMPUS. You have no excuse; they are everywhere! When doubts start creeping in and it feels like Jesus is a million miles away, take that extra step to isolate yourself in a space that is purely reserved for connecting with God.
- IT’S MUCH BETTER TO FEEL LONELY WHILE SINGLE THAN LONELY IN A RELATIONSHIP. It seems like a lot of people spend so much time avoiding a breakup because they are scared of being alone. Don’t let fear keep you in a relationship that hurts your soul. A breakup might be painful at first, but I promise you, you will be okay.
- GRIEVE LOST RELATIONSHIPS. It’s easy to think getting into a relationship with someone new will ease your pain, but you might end up dragging him or her down with you. Allow yourself time and space to wallow in your sadness. It might take days, weeks, months or even years before your heart feels whole again without them, but you will get there. Grieving is a process, and don’t feel bad if you aren’t instantly happy after a relationship ends, even if ending it was your call.
- BE GRACIOUS… to your family, friends, professors, roommates, baristas and fellow drivers on the road. If you make it your goal to give grace to those around you, you will start to see the ways that they show you grace on a daily basis. A huge step in embracing aloneness is just being able to recognize the ways in which others express their care and love for you. *Disclaimer: I am still working on this one and probably always will be.*
- BE A WITNESS. It is especially in our troubles that we have the opportunity to be a witness of how Christ has changed our lives. If you’re going through a break up or you’re new to campus and haven’t established yourself yet, just know people are paying attention to how you handle loneliness. If you throw yourself into your vices or another person, they won’t be surprised or impressed. If you throw yourself into God’s word and his church, your heart will mend much faster and you will hopefully earn some heavenly rewards: the people that you bring to Christ.
Rachel Stanley (Biola ’17) is a graduate student pursuing a Masters in Professional Accountancy. When she is not busy studying for the CPA or working for Biola University’s Communication and Marketing Department, she enjoys going to the beach, reading celebrity literature, thrifting, and teaching herself how to rollerblade.