Being alone in a new city and an empty apartment leaves plenty of time for self-reflection. During my first week in Chicago I thought back to my first week at Howard University and the loneliness I felt on my birthday that year. Transferring to a new school and having no one to celebrate your birthday with was hard for me. Last week I thought about the difference between being alone and feeling lonely. I realized that you can be alone without feeling lonely. There is strength in being able to take things on alone. I felt that strength last week. I moved here alone, unpacked, painted walls, built furniture, went shopping, and found my way around the city. Unfortunately, buried beneath all this strength was the feeling of loneliness. I felt it most on the Fourth of July.
My apartment building has a rooftop with a beautiful view of the city. After spending the day building some furniture I went up to view the fireworks. What I shouldn’t have done then was check my phone. Viewing pictures of celebrations and cookouts made me realize how lonely I was in this big, beautiful city. Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) is real, y’all.
I start work this week and couldn’t be more excited. I know this is a new chapter for me and it’s up to me to write it. Being alone is not a bad thing to be, but feeling lonely is. Last week I learned that I have to choose how I want to feel. I am blessed to have the opportunity to be here in Chicago and I am going to make the most of it. As Aldous Huxley once said, “Experience is not what happens to you, it’s what you do with what happens to you.”
My mom gave me a piece of advice during a phone conversation last week when I was feeling particularly lonely, “ Your ambition is to be happy Do something that makes you happy.”
Loneliness is a choice, but so is happiness. For now on I choose happiness.
One day I may look back on my first week in Chicago and laugh. I don’t know when this day will be, but hopefully it comes soon.