Today, I was asked on Twitter:
"Do you have any advice for feeling alone even though you have a group of friends?
I struggle with that at uni, its a long story."
It spoke to me because I had that feeling for a long time growing up, especially in my college years. I had friends around all the time. When I'd eat out during class breaks, when I'd run errands, even in class. We'd laugh like crazy, blast music with the windows down, always having a good time. The only time I'd be physically alone was on my drive home. Despite the number of people I had around me most of the day, I couldn't shake this very lonely feeling. On that drive home, all the laughs and moments shared had settled down and all that remained was my numbness from feeling alone. Pure discontent. Why?
It wasn't until I moved to New York for a summer internship that I understood the problem—me. I wasn't happy with myself. I wasn't happy with who I was, mostly because I didn't actually know who I was. I spent my whole life surrounded by people—taking in their thoughts, their words. I shivered at the thought of ever sitting alone or doing anything by myself. So when I'd leave these hangouts with my friends, I was uncomfortable. And I took that as feeling alone and unhappy, but only because I had never experienced just sitting with my own thoughts. Especially in Texas where you rarely see people sitting by themselves. However, in New York, everyone did it, and I was forced to do the same. On my lunch break, I'd pick up my $1 pizza slice, a can of Dr Pepper, and sit alone in the park. Letting my imagination take charge. Laughing by myself seeing the skateboard dude trip over his board. Noticing I have a really ugly laugh, but then starting to laugh at my own laugh. Having the epiphany that that's just how I laugh, that's me. Who cares what others think of it? It was in these moments I understood who I am and it felt so good. I felt complete for the first time because I was happy with myself.
So my advice—be alone. Do things by yourself. Run errands alone. Take a walk in a park alone. Go to a restaurant, eat alone. But don't sit on your phone the whole time...let your mind think for itself and drift off into your own imagination. This is YOU time—time to get to know yourself. Don't make it a habit to HAVE to do things with other people. Befriend yourself, learn more about what you like and you don't like without the opinions and critiques from your friends. Just learn to be okay with being alone. Rupi Kaur says "You must enter a relationship with yourself before anyone else." So try to be happy with yourself. Once you do, you'll understand that hanging out with friends is a plus, not a must. All you really need is yourself, and God.
God is another reason why that feeling I once had began to disappear. I began to view those feelings of loneliness as tests. Am I gonna run to Him? After He's helped me and I started to feel better, will I still run to Him? One lesson I learned from the story of Prophet Yusef (pbuh), is that one must realize that truly the only thing you need to survive in this life, is Allah. I especially feel that when we fast, pushing away all unnecessary things in this life and concentrating your efforts in remembrance of your Creator.
The lesson: learn to be alone, & remember that "He is with you wherever you are." [Hadid 57:4]