A Wolf Pack of One
Why it’s okay, and often beneficial, to let go of people.
By Aaron Lynch, Front Range Community College
“You never come out anymore. Why are you so boring all the time?”
I must get asked this question twice a week at work, usually after declining another invitation to hit the bars. There’s a stigma that exists on people with no social life, as if declining invitations to hang out with people really means that nobody likes you.
I used to be fun. I knew all the drink specials around town, hiked three times a week and seemed to always have a funny anecdote; I had more “friends” than I knew what to do with. Somewhere along the way though, my preferences began to change and I wanted new things.
It wasn’t just that I was bored of the bars, or of basketball every Wednesday; I wasn’t even just bored of my social landscape. I was bored of having a social landscape.
I was sick of belonging to groups of friends–waiting for the group to be ready to leave or compromising my preferences because the group wanted to do something else. I was tired of committing my time and exhausting my money on mere pastime, when what I really needed was to focus on my goals.
And thus, my habits began to shift and I started becoming a loner.
Here’s Why That’s Okay
This wasn’t some epiphany; I didn’t just wake up one morning and decide I didn’t like any of my friends anymore. Instead, it was a gradual shift of mindset. I stopped thinking of my group of friends in terms of “us” and noticed myself thinking in terms of “them.” I didn’t even realize it was happening until my friends complained that they didn’t see enough of me.
At first I felt guilty, like I had abandoned them. Good friends are supposed to be there for each other, right? But if my goals don’t involve these people, how much time do I owe them? There’s nothing wrong with being selfish in how you spend your time.
And with less time spent cultivating friendships, I can read twice as many books, make more money and earn better grades than ever before. I hike and snowboard alone too, and I’ve even been to concerts by myself.
Plus, I have a good time doing it because when I go alone, I’m there for me.
I show up on my own time, leave on my own time and hike whatever trails I want (though sometimes my dog gets a say).
Being obligated to only yourself is the most liberating feeling, and taking long periods of solitude is a great way to get comfortable in your own skin (sobriety is also a great way to figure out who your real friends are).
Once you start prioritizing your goals over your social life, your routine will have more variety, and it will only be variety that you seek out.
I eventually started to feel bored at the idea of meeting up with friends altogether.
Keep a Few Good Ones
I’m not saying you should shun all social activities and become a recluse who has no contact with the outside world. I still talk to my best friend Del most days, and we get a beer after work probably once a week. In fact, our friendship has probably never been stronger since I became a loner.
Del has been my best friend for years and has always encouraged me to do what’s best for myself, regardless of what anyone else thinks. He and I are like-minded individuals who want a similar level of commitment out of our friendships. It’s ironic that what allows our friendship to thrive is our occasional indifference to hanging out with each other.
Since we have similar mindsets, Del and I usually wind up discussing our ideas and goals together, which, in effect, keeps my mind focused even when I’m slacking off. It’s also critical to have somebody to brainstorm ideas with, and therefore it’s also critical to maintain some contact with a few people whose opinions you trust (even if it’s just one or two).
So maybe I’m not completely a loner, but I did cut off most of the unnecessary people in my life. When it comes to the friends, it’s better to have four quarters than one hundred pennies.
I find that people tend to ebb and flow through your life by means that you can’t control, anyway. It’s crucial to your sanity that you embrace these tides–worrying about why all your old friends drifted away is maddening and has no end (this is valuable for getting over break-ups, too).
You make a lot of temporary friends while you’re in college, as most students are just at school to learn and plan to move on once they have their degree. You’ll have a lot in common with these temps, and though they’ll be gone soon, the influence they can have on you is immense.
Developmentally, college is perhaps the most important stage of becoming an adult, so the people with whom you interact can have significant influence over the adult you grow into.
It’s important to choose these people wisely, and equally important to know how much effort you should put into these “tempships.” As you grow and hone in on your goals, you’ll start drifting in all directions, with everyone pursuing their own path to success. It’s not so much that you’ll have to cut all these people off, but as with me it will be a gradual shift where eventually they are no longer your priority. It’s okay. You should be your top priority.