Alone does not mean lonely. It took me almost four years to figure that out, so let me tell you how I came to this realization.
I came closer each year of high school to being OK with being alone, and that is something that scared me for a long time. When quarantine started my sophomore year, I was so worried because I wasn’t going to be able to see my friends at the time—we don’t even talk anymore, yet I cannot remember the last time I was this happy with myself.
Let’s start at my freshman year. I was in my VSCO phase and was excited to go into high school with the same friends I had since elementary school; we were going to go to all the football games together, go to homecoming together, and have so much fun. I’ll tell you that it only lasted maybe three months—we had fights weekly between one another, and during all those fun football games and homecoming group chats, I found myself getting constantly put down by my “friends.”
I didn’t like who I was becoming when I was around that group of friends; I was dressing in a way that I didn’t even like just because I didn’t want to get criticized for being “extra” or “too girly.” Eventually, you get tired of hearing the same thing over and over again, and I got to a point where I realized that there is no reason I should be acting or dressing in a way that isn’t making me happy just to stay friends with people I didn’t even like anymore.
Sometimes, people just outgrow each other, and my friends and I just weren’t friends like we used to be, and I really didn’t want anything to do with them anymore. I knew I wanted to detach myself from those friends, but it was difficult at first because I didn’t have that many friends outside that group; I was nervous because I knew I was going to be alone for the first time.
Once I stopped hanging out with them, they would go around saying things about me, but the more I heard, the more relieved I felt that I wasn’t a part of that group anymore. I also started realizing that the longer I wasn’t around them, the less I missed them; I was starting to feel like myself again, and yes, I know this entire thing sounds cliche. I was holding onto those relationships because I’m very sentimental, and I still saw them as my childhood friends, even though they weren’t adding any value to my life anymore.
The rest of sophomore year, I was beginning my little self-love journey and trying to focus on more genuine, one-on-one relationships rather than one big group that came together or fell apart as the result of only one person’s actions. As this happened and I started to focus on myself, especially during quarantine and my remote school year my junior year, I noticed that toxic people or people who weren’t supposed to be in my life anymore seamlessly filtered out on their own. Some people were calling me selfish or saying I changed, but it’s not selfish to take care of yourself and do things to make yourself happy. It’s really not.
During quarantine, I had a lot of time to develop my style and really take time to figure out what is important to me and what I want to put my energy towards. Me being called so “extra” and too girly is what made me want to dress like that even more; especially now that I separated myself from those people and their opinions. I started dressing how I felt, and I felt like my dramatic personality finally aligned with how I looked. Once I became more confident and focused on myself, yes, a lot of people left, but a lot of people that mean the world to me today also came into my life.
When I heard you are what you attract, I literally used to laugh or roll my eyes because I thought you had sole control over who comes into your life and who leaves. But I realized that you can only control if you stay or leave, not what anyone else decides to do. I also found that people are more drawn to happy, brighter energy, so when I was all worried about being alone and not being able to make friends on my own, little did I know that all it took was me being genuinely happy to attract positive people into my life.
By my senior year, I have three or four really close friends that I love more than anything, and they bring so much light into my life I never thought I’d find. I also take pride in my “extra” fashion choices, and I will opt to wear my faux fur slides or lots of jewelry and lots of pink any day over how I tried to dress during my freshman and sophomore year. I go out alone or spend a few days without seeing anyone, and those are some of my favorite days.
I haven’t felt lonely once. Alone, yes, but never lonely.
This is not to bash anyone in those big friend groups, because I know some of them are genuine, and everyone genuinely likes one another; this is to help anyone who’s scared to feel lonely learn that it’s okay being alone because once you’re alone you can figure out what you really want and like. Don’t try to change just to hold onto relationships that don’t serve a purpose anymore, just focus on yourself and let things go and happen the way they’re supposed to, because your energy and peace is worth protecting.