I’m one of them, too.
As I looked at the messages on Whatsapp , I wanted to internally shriek: 9 unattended messages from the same friend within a one-hour time span.
Guilt coursed through my veins as I tried to think of a reasonable explanation on why I did not pick up the phone…
In failed attempts to think of ambiguous truths, I just settled with telling the truth for what it was:
I want to be alone right now.
It’s hard to form these words to a friend or even a loved one. If you are someone who also finds peace in moments of solitude, we often find ourselves in a perpetual state of guilt of being a bad friend when those around us inquire about the reasons why we want to be left alone.
At times, I feel incredibly guilty for choosing solitude over the time of friends. I often enjoy moments where I do not have to interact with other human beings, a phone, electronics, or social media.
At a hostel, a garden, at an Apartahotel where I am now, or simply sitting on the beach at the water’s edge: it doesn’t matter the place. There’s just something about solitude that brings about inner peace and inspiration. It awakens your soul.
You might “suck” at friendships, but if you’re a solitary soul, all that’s needed is some balance to help cure this guilt-ridden complex.
Here are a few reminders to hopefully alleviate some of the guilt of feeling like a “bad friend”.
Friendship Requires Compromise
I’m no relationship guru, but any relationship whether with your roommate, significant other, family, or friend, requires compromise built on mutual respect.
This is sometimes difficult when we are used to being independent and on our own.
Alone, you don’t have to worry about this type of compromise… it’s a one-man-show. But this becomes a major problem if we decide to bring this mindset into a friendship. Being able to switch gears from independence to team collaboration isn’t easy.
But at the same time, if you are someone who enjoys having friends (or simply coming out of your hermit shell) every once in a while due to a genuine desire to love and show affection to other human beings: compromise needs to be part of the equation.
Compromise on when and how you will share the time between you and your friend.
The answers to when and how will differ from friendship-to-friendship, but these are still questions that will help make the time you spend with your friend more meaningful; this is a way to build purpose into your moments with intent.
But don’t forget:
Compromise on the time you spend alone
Once again, the amount of time needed to recharge after socializing will depend on the person. You may just need morning or nights to yourself, maybe just a day or two, or a month…
Setting time and compromising with your friends on this alone time is essential to building long-lasting friendships.
For every moment that you guilt-tripped yourself into being a bad friend…
Remember: You’re still okay. Your friends are probably okay. Everyone’s okay. Don’t sweat it.
This may seem like an oversimplification of the matter (which it is),but the bottom line is that:
Life still goes on.
If you think you screwed up your friendship, you can still find a way to make amends or find closure.
If you can use this time of guilt and replace it as a learning moment for growth, you will be okay. You will grow stronger from the experience.
As for the world… we know there will always be a war between the good and bad. We choose the side we’re on by our choices without letting the world define us and further adding to our guilt.
All in all, guilt is part of being human. If you’re feeling some level of guilt, it’s probably because you are, indeed, human (congratulations, you passed the Being Human Test! 🙂
Solitude is Essential
“Solitude can be productive only: if it is voluntary, if one can regulate one’s emotions “effectively,” if one can join a social group when desired, and if one can maintain positive relationships outside of it. When such conditions aren’t met, yes, solitude can be harmful.” — Brent Crane
As Brent Crane puts it, solitude for the sake of solitude can actually be counterproductive if we do not use this time of solace appropriately. To summarize:
- Solitude has to come from our own freewill — not due to circumstances where we feel casted off or forsaken. Set time for yourself. Alone. But be productive. Read. Write. Pray. Meditate as you marvel at the depths of the ocean and the sound of the waves. Don’t think about the world’s problems or what your friends are thinking. You chose to be alone. Make the most of this time.
- Additionally, we need to use this time to self-regulate our emotions — truly introspect and seek understanding on what we are truly feeling.
- Last but not least, “returning” back to society still needs to be an option after solitude. Did you break off all contact from people in the world — left all of your friends and family behind on bad terms? Are you stranded on a deserted island where your raft was destroyed by a Sharknado, rendering your chances of returning to society nonexistent? Do you at least have a volleyball?
If we can meet all three parts of the criteria outlined by Brent Crane, we will have used our time in solitude productively, but also,will be able to return back to society happier and more at peace with a ready-to-take-on-the-world mentality.
Being present requires practice, but is necessary whether in solitude or with people.
- Create an environment that allows you to be in solitude — preferably in a place that gives you peace of mind.
- If your friends invite you to go out or travel with them… don’t make solitude an expectation in this case. Be present in the friendship while you’re spending time with this person/group.
- On the other hand, if solitude is your objective, book a hostel room, private room, travel alone: create the environment that will allow you to stay focused on being present.
True Friends Will Understand
We all have to understand that our friends have personal needs, too. You don’t have to cater to their every whim, but understanding and compromise are essential in a healthy friendship. If something is off-balance, there are some things we must consider.
- Choose friends wisely.
We’re human, and just as I would imagine with any relationship, finding a compatible friend is (probably) like dating. You can still love others and be kind, but pick friends you see yourself investing long-term.
- Be upfront, but brace yourself…
Initial hurt or misunderstanding might arise at the beginning, but if a friend really is a friend, they won’t become bitter or harbor resentment when you tell them you need solitary time every once in awhile.
If a “friend” tries to use your need for solitude against you, don’t let it guilt you in feeling badly about yourself. Simply escort them to the door, and with kind words, bid a farewell: Bye, Felicia!
True Friendships Are For A Lifetime
Whatever the case may be, don’t feel discouraged if you are the so-called “sucky” friend.
That can change.
If you are constantly communicating and finding ways to build yourself into a positive person, your friendships (or even new friendships) will flourish.
At the end of the day, there is no such thing as “good” friend. We all need to admit we can be sucky in some shape or form.
The point is to suck less each day. We may not always be a good friend, or even the best friend, but we can still be a true friend. The test of a true friend is time.
Be the Person Your Dog Thinks You Are…
The day I came back from Brazil, I remember the smell of Thai food my parents made to welcome me back, as well as my dogs crying as they jumped on me to lick my face… it had been nearly a year since I was gone.
That very night, all the dogs had cuddled up with me… and Spottie : my Rat Terrier, Jack Russell mix for the first time in many years had succeeded in jumping up and on to my bed. I still can remember the day he had entered our house as a stray. He just ran into our house one afternoon as if he knew that our house was a place to call home.
I remember the early mornings where I would wake up to his slobbery kisses — and the more I laughed — the more he would shower me with licks of love (maybe he knew I needed a bath!).
After coming back from Brazil, it felt like the olden days with Spottie when he was just a pup. Spottie planted himself on the bed, nuzzled close to me — me being the big spoon and he the little.
However, a few days after returning, I noticed something wasn’t quite right with Spottie. His neck was stiff and he would pant hoarsely.
Within a week, he had passed away.
It had dawned on me…
Spottie was already old when I had left to Brazil.
And yet he waited.
He waited for me…
Dogs know better than we do, what and how love is supposed to look like: Unconditional, constant, and consistent.
Spottie waited a whole year with no knowledge where I was, what I was doing, or if I was even alive.
Waited for the last moment he would jump the highest that he had ever jumped since he was a puppy…
Waited for the last time he would shower me licks of pure love to wake me up in the morning…
Waited until I would be by his side in his final days.
Just like Spottie, we have to approach life in the way we approach our friendships.
Who are the people we would be willing to struggle with? To endure the pain even through the final moments of our lives or our loved ones?
Who are the people who help empower us to become the best versions of ourselves, who helps us suck less, and inspires us to be a better friend?
Indeed, it starts with us first: becoming our own best friend in solitude and within society:
To be the person — be the friend — that your dog (or cat) thinks is worth waiting for. There will be a share of moments filled with pain and joy, but the people you are willing to struggle with are the people you should keep close: to love unconditionally, constantly, and consistently.
Life sucks less with this type of friendship. ❤
Thank you for reading. 🙂
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Crane, Brent. “Being Alone Can Be Good for Your Mental Health.” The Atlantic, Atlantic Media Company, 31 Mar. 2017, www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2017/03/the-virtues-of-isolation/521100/.