I am an introvert. I am also a nerd. Sound familiar?
Naturally, these two words go together. Typically, introverts have a tendency to enjoy spending time alone (and also need that time to recharge), and a lot of stereotypically “nerdy” activities are pursued alone (i.e. reading, playing video games, etc.) That’s not to say that all introverts are nerds or vice versa. But for me, I’ve found that the more I’m comfortable with myself, the more lame I become.
And that’s a good thing.
You see, ever since I was little I’ve enjoyed spending time by myself. Even with my older brother (who I’m very close with) around, I still was pretty satisfied just playing or reading on my own. And as I got older, those habits have stuck so that I can now comfortably occupy myself for an entire day without much trouble.
But that’s… kind of weird. Isn’t it?
I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately since my summer vacation has officially started. I have all of these plans for the summer that I’ve compiled into a notebook of lists. (I LOVE LISTS.) The things I want to do culminate into seventeen–seventeen— different categories. (I’ll make a post about it in the near future.)
But I realized something about this: most of the activities I want to pursue would only benefit me.
I want to spend my summer learning about different topics on the Internet via Crash Course videos and Netflix documentaries. I want to read and write every day. I want to practice piano and ukulele. And I do have a lot of big projects that I want to pursue (this blog being one of them!), but they are all pretty much centered on me being by myself. Granted, I don’t have a driver’s license (I’m working on it!), so I can’t exactly get myself to other people very easily. But all of this learning for my own benefit got me thinking: why am I doing this? What’s all of this for?
This brought me to the idea that people have different tools for combating loneliness. Naturally, some of them are ineffectual and actually detrimental, like heavy drinking or drugs. And some people simply don’t have any tools at all and spend all their time with other people, sometimes even people they hate, just so that they aren’t alone.
I’ve realized that over the course of my life, and especially within the last year, I’ve used learning as a means to defeat loneliness. And it works.
Last summer was one of the most boring times of my life. I had just graduated from high school; I had no job and no driver’s license. Now, before that summer, I was that studious kid who actually did all of the summer work– and I had a lot of it. So before, when I wasn’t spending time with my friends, I was reading East of Eden or doing a chemistry packet. I managed to be stressed in the summer. Call me crazy.
And so, of course, I looked forward to that first summer of true freedom, when I could do whatever I wanted whenever I wanted. But after about a month, it got really old. I didn’t know what to do with myself. All of my friends were busy.
So from that time, through my extra-long winter break after my first semester of college, I picked up learning as a hobby. I got this app called Duolingo that teaches me French, and another one called Daily Art that teaches you about one famous painting a day. I started watching Crash Course videos and Netflix documentaries about everything from psychology to astronomy, from feminism to ballerinas. And I fell in love with a different kind of learning; at school, I had been forced to learn what the government thinks is important. Now, I was learning what I wanted to learn.
And so now I’ve come to another summer that seems to be lacking human interaction, but I’m startlingly O.K. with it. Should I be worried that I can spend so much time with myself so easily? Maybe. Am I kind of digging it? Yeah.
So what do you think? Is learning a good way to combat loneliness? Is there a better way? How do you deal with being lonely? Let me know in the comments!