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Credit: Felicity Yick

Anyone who knows me can vouch that I’m an extrovert. To my surprise, since the onset of the pandemic, I’ve enjoyed my time alone more than ever before. Still, I focus on nurturing my relationships with loved ones on a daily basis, whether via FaceTime calls or constant text messages. But nowadays I derive the most energy from time spent alone.

COVID-19 has undoubtedly taken away lives, jobs, opportunities, and so much more. It’s evident that quarantine has led to increased social isolation and prevalent feelings of loneliness. But if there’s one thing we should learn from the pandemic, it’s that alone time should be more appreciated.

Learning to be alone and to feel wholly secure in yourself is very much underrated. We depend on relationships and platonic friendships for emotional fulfillment, social pleasure, and general personal satisfaction — but often to a counterproductive, even detrimental, extent. That is, perhaps for those who may struggle with attachment or dependency, quarantine has surprisingly improved their mental health in at least some regard.

Truthfully, alone time and self-care are really beautiful and healing. Before anything else, before we enter the real “adult world,” we must learn to make ourselves happy first — whatever that might mean for you. Perhaps it’s re-reading your favorite books or indulging in your favorite TV show. Maybe it’s stargazing at night or watching the morning sunrise, or even hosting your own personalized wine tasting from the comfort of your home.

Frankly, here at the “Social Ivy,” we are too caught up with networking, parading our large social circles, and strutting about Locust Walk recognizing the many people we know. Yet, somehow, we still manage to complain about feeling lonely at times. Especially now that we must adapt to a new normal, it’s crucial to actively prioritize self-care and value our alone time. Your happiness shouldn’t be contingent on whether you secure that Goldman Sachs internship or not, or whether you score a date with your crush — we must learn to love ourselves regardless.

“Physical and emotional separations or boundaries are essential to healthy adult relationships,” says psychotherapist Dana Dorfman, Ph.D., MSW. “While humans are social creatures who rely on relationships and connection for emotional survival, we also need time alone to think, nourish, and care for ourselves. That’s what replenishes our individuality.”

Let’s not forget that mental health encompasses not only specific disorders but also general wellbeing. And let’s never forget to love ourselves first and foremost, before we can love our career prospects, or that internship or research position, or any romantic partner for that matter.

We should all learn something from these times. It’s our best hope for maintaining resilience during this indefinite period of isolation. For me, I’ve learned to love being alone; I’ve become more in tune with my emotions and passions, and consequently more secure and confident in myself. And that’s something this pandemic could never take away from me.

BRIDGET YU is a College junior from Los Angeles, CA studying Psychology. She plans to attend medical school and specialize in psychiatry. Her email address is bridgtyu@sas.upenn.edu.

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