I can’t believe it’s been an entire month of The Next Seven!!! This blog has made me so incredibly happy. Not only has it provided an outlet for thoughts on life and living, but it’s also connected me to so many people. Thank you to those of you who have reached out to me in any form. I love hearing your thoughts on what purposeful living means to you! It’s been my favorite part of this whole thing.
Anyway, enough of me getting sappy over here. 🙂 Back to your regularly scheduled programming.
A few weeks ago I woke up and decided I was taking a break from life.
It was only a Wednesday but I’d already run myself into the ground. I’d taken a weekend trip away, seen a concert with my boyfriend, visited a winery with my family, gone on an outdoor walking tour with my bestie, had a Bachelorette night with my favorite NYC girls, and undergone a minor medical procedure that left me useless for an afternoon all in the past five days.
That night I was planning to go to a Mets game with a group of friends but I couldn’t even imagine leaving my bedroom. I just wanted to be by myself with a cup of coffee and a good book.
This happens to me every once in a while, and maybe it happens to you as well. Sometimes I get so caught up in the grind of making the most of every little second of my life that I forget how important it is to rest and spend time with myself.
I focus so much of my energy on making new memories with people I love that I ignore the need to sit down and reflect on who I am, what motivates me, and where I’m going next.
So I took the morning for me. I brewed my best cup of joe and curled up on my bed with a pen and my journal. I wrote for what felt like forever, and when I was done I felt new. That night I went to the Mets game refreshed and energized, ready to soak in time with my best girls.
Making a habit of rest and alone time is one of the most important things we can do to live a full life. This may seem contradictory to previous posts I’ve written, where I’ve discussed the necessity of spending time with quality social circles. But taking space from others and focusing on yourself is crucial in its own right.
Practicing solitude promotes longevity and direction in the quest for a purposeful existence. When we spend time getting to know ourselves and learning about who we are, what makes us tick, and what gets us passionate, we are able to better ascertain the parts of life that fill us up, make us sad, bring us joy, and tear us down. We figure out where we find meaning and where we don’t, and because of this we’re able to decide what we should spend our time doing and what goals we should focus on reaching.
And I know that when I carve out a few hours for myself, my ability to enjoy time with others is amplified. I come back to them refreshed and rejuvenated, ready for fun and memories.
But spending time alone with the purpose of reflecting on one’s life can be scary. That seems like kind of an odd concept, but it’s true. It can be tempting to avoid taking time to contemplate our lives because the questions that can arise during this period of meditation can be absolutely terrifying.
Some petrifying thoughts that may come up:
- What if I realize I want to accomplish something that is impossible for me to accomplish, and then I’m disappointed when I don’t?
- What if I don’t like the person I discover when I really take a good hard look at myself and what I’m made of?
- When I take a minute to think about the fact that my life will end one day and I need to start focusing on what I want to get out of it before I die, aren’t severe anxieties about the shortness of time sure to arise?
- Am I going to have to finally deal with the memories from my past I’m trying to avoid?
And so we decide it’s better to suppress any negative emotions that may come up during a self-reflecting period. Instead we choose to spend our time numbing ourselves to these bad feelings by throwing ourselves into our social lives too completely or distracting ourselves during periods of solitude with video games or social media.
I won’t lie to you. Negative emotions may bubble to the surface during self-reflection. It won’t necessarily feel awesome, especially not at first.
But the consequences of not taking time alone to get to know oneself are even worse. If we aren’t sure who we are, we can’t possibly know what we want. And if we don’t know what we want, we risk finding ourselves on our deathbeds one day filled with regrets and a longing for what could have been.
And when we take a good hard look at the things that make us uncomfortable or uneasy, we eventually make peace with them, and we live freer, fuller lives.
This isn’t to say that we need to have a ten year plan mapped out at age 20. I don’t even have a two year plan, for crying out loud. We don’t have to know right this very second our entire career paths or everything we want to get done in every decade.
But I do know what steps I want to take from here to start to unravel parts of myself I haven’t figured out yet. I know want to accomplish tomorrow, the next day, and in a few months. And I feel assured that if I suddenly find myself with three more days to live, I’ll feel good about how I used the time I spent on earth.
So, friends. I encourage you to lean into the uncomfortable this week. Take a few hours for you. Ask yourself the hard questions. Learn what you can do with this staggering life.
There is so much more to write on this and I’m sure I’ll have more to say in the future. But now I want to hear from you! What do you do when you need to spend time by yourself?