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a heart who's love is innocent

Lately I've been thinking about the difference between being alone and being lonely. I actually don't like the label of introvert, especially the way it's used nowadays online. People that I've encountered online who identify as introverts seem to have swell heads and think that wanting to be alone sometimes counts as a personality. Or they're incredibly misanthropic and think hating people will make them popular online. Obviously this is a generalization, and I'm sure there are some wonderful people in online introvert communities, I just never felt comfortable calling myself part of them, especially lately. I've also been questioning the usefulness of labels-- I think pretty much everyone has introverted and extroverted tendencies.

I am a pretty solitary person, though, and I've always been okay with that, until recently. In high school, I was hardly a party animal, but I had friends that I could go get coffee with and study with and make flower crowns with. I actually really do love people, and I love spending time with my friends. I valued my alone time equally as much, though. Another thing about introverts-- everyone expects you to be a worldly scholar who never watches TV and instead reads romantic poetry all day. When I'm alone, I'm probably binge watching New Girl for the umpteenth time. But I'm getting sidetracked.

What I'm getting at is, for most of my life, I've always had people I could be around if I so desired. But after high school, everyone scattered. Very few of my friends bothered to check in with me or keep in touch. I don't blame them, some of it is my fault, most of it is just life. There are a few friends that I had to cut off because they had hurt me deeply and it was detrimental to my mental health to stay in touch with them, but in most cases, my relationships just fell apart organically, without any hard feelings. Regardless, I had never been alone like that before. For the first time in my life, I was lonely.

I realized that I wasn't as comfortable being alone-- or as comfortable with myself-- as I had previously thought. This was a really scary thing to go through, because it attacked my identity and my sense of self. I know I've talked about how I have a strong sense of self on this blog previously, and while that was true even during this time, this loneliness challenged my relationship with the world and the people in it. I didn't like to be alone anymore and I craved human connection, but I also didn't really have the courage to pursue any new friendships or relationships, because I need to take care of myself before trying to make friends with anyone else.

I know that if I were an inspirational blogger here is where I would tell you that I started eating healthier, working out, getting in tune with my spiritual side, started a cool new job and whathaveyou. I did do some of those things, but focusing on yourself doesn't always mean going on a juice cleanse and buying a copy of Eat, Pray, Love. Self-care, if you want to call it that, doesn't have a one size fits all definition. "Focusing on yourself," at least in my case, was a difficult and messy process. It meant struggling through Nicomachean Ethics, eating an entire box of Entenmann's black-and-white cookies, and going to an Esports event without knowing absolutely anything about Esports.

But I feel like I've reestablished who I am in relation to other people and my environment. In about a month it's my birthday, and pretty soon I'll be moving out of the town where I grew up and beginning my adult life. Just a few months earlier, just the thought of that petrified me with fear. I don't really feel like an adult yet, but I'm learning a lot of other adults feel that way too. But after rediscovering my ability to connect with people, I feel refreshed and ready for something new.


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