The Power of Sitting Alone in Frary

By Nelia Perry ‘24

After 18 months of online graduations, classes, birthdays, religious ceremonies, and study sessions, Pomona finally opened back up in August! As a rising sophomore who had yet to live on campus, I anxiously awaited move-in day, in-person classes, eating in Frank and Frary dining halls, meeting new people, cartwheeling through Marston Quad, getting in the pool with my teammates, and late-night dorm room chats.

And it has been a DREAM! I feel a renewed sense of motivation and passion in academic and non-academic settings, and I constantly find myself rejoicing in the simple pleasure of catching up with someone over a meal or saying “hi” as I walk from class to class. Even the dreaded aspects such as waiting for a laundry machine to open or long lines in the dinning hall bring me a unique sense of joy, because they have taken the place of months of isolation. These moments constantly remind me that I am now finally in college.

At the same time, returning to constant social, emotional, and academic stimulation after 18 months at home hasn’t been all that easy. After Orientation week I was physically, emotionally, and socially drained. After the last day of orientation, I woke up on Sunday morning coming off 12 hours of sleep) to discover that I had lost my voice, developed large bags under my eyes, and felt unable to ever introduce myself again. Of course, the next day when classes started I again was introducing myself to new people. It had come to a point, though, where my brain simply could not remember any more faces, names, hometowns, majors, or dorm locations. I WAS EXHAUSTED.

The craziness settled down after the first week, but, still, I knew I needed to find a way to take time to be by myself. Being alone is so often associated with loneliness. Coming into college, most of us think sitting alone in the dining hall, spending a Saturday night curled up alone in bed watching a movie, or walking around campus without anyone by your side means you are lonely or in need of friends. In reality, there is nothing more important than spending time with yourself, especially at college.

grassy area with trees and sun setting over a campus building
One of the best ways to find alone time is on walks! I love walking around campus or Claremont while listening to music, podcasts or just reflecting.

It sounds obvious to say now, but I am only now starting to realize that we live here. Before college, when you live at home, you spend time in your room alone, you might spend time in your house with no one else home, you walk or drive around to run errands by yourself, you eat breakfast alone before leaving for school. I found that I was approaching college with my switch constantly turned on. I thought I had to be doing something all the time; I couldn’t just be living here.

grass in background with hand holding card with painting of flower pots
Watercoloring on Marston Quad!

I have since made sure to make time for myself, and I have stopped judging myself for not always having plans. I am an introvert, so I am used to needing time to myself to reenergize, and I wasn’t giving that to myself. Now, I am comfortable spending meals alone, maybe just people watching, maybe working on an assignment or two. I have spent time in my bed watching shows or perusing social media. I have laid out on my picnic blanket listening to the birds as I work, read, or draw. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of this, for introverts and extroverts alike.

In giving this space to myself, I have realized that everyone around me is finding the same rhythm. I have come to appreciate something I never even thought about when looking at colleges: picking a place where the student body is equally seeking alone time to rejoice. Many people at Pomona are outgoing introverts like me. We find joy in socializing and interpersonal interactions, but we equally seek out opportunities to rejoice and reenergize in solidarity. Similarly, Pomona students find ways to socialize in varying group sizes, ranging from larger parties/events to gatherings with a few people in a dorm room.

art installation Sky Space shows blueish light through hole in canopy
Sky Space is one of my favorite places to go at sunrise and sunset to clear my mind

While adjusting has still been tiring, and I am still looking for the best routine and rhythm, I am now able to say that I have found ways to sit with myself and regroup after long days or weeks—something that has truly saved my college experience (and reduced my eye bags) thus far.