This summer, I was lucky enough to have an exciting internship at this great company to keep me occupied. But for many of my past summers, I was much less busy and far more bored. Especially when I was younger, I had a tendency to assume that I needed way more alone time than I actually did, and I overestimated the long-term entertainment value of video games.
Turns out, video games (and snack foods) get stale after a while. So I learned a lesson in being social: do it. Think to yourself: would I really be happier eating Cheetos and playing Minecraft (or whatever it is you do on your downtime), or would I rather go out and have an actually unique and new experience?
I learned this lesson the hard way by noticing that other people tended to be a lot busier than me. I thought I was being busy too, but the stories that I’d tell paled in comparison to theirs. Now, I can look back and see that their lives were more interesting because they were actually doing stuff!
For example, when I was in 11th grade, I found out that a couple of my friends had all bought season passes to Six Flags, and they were going every weekend, whether riding rides or just hanging out. It sounded like a ton of fun. Then, I found out that this had been a tradition for almost two years! I just hadn’t noticed because I’d been so introverted! Once I expressed an interest in coming along, I was warmly welcomed, and I bought my own pass. I joined this merry band of Six Flags attendees, and I replaced my Seinfeld marathons (“TV shows + video games” was my typical weekend plan) with the marathon that one takes from ride to ride at a theme park, and it was a complete blast.
What this experience, among others, taught me is that if someone you want to spend time with asks you to spend time with them, you should almost always say yes. Being introverted isn’t something you should just ignore, because if you are an introvert, you know that it’s an inescapable part of your nature. The trick is to find when you can have the most fun with the best people, and adjust the way you spend your social energy accordingly. Also (you hopefully already know this) if your friend(s) wants you to go do something you don’t want to do, for reasons that you believe in, then you shouldn’t feel pressured to do it.
Of course, I’ve known this for a while now. Poor lonely Erik is long gone, but if I could go back in time and tell myself one thing, it’d probably be that.
Like I said, it’s very important to make time to be alone and gather your thoughts. It’s much more important, however, to keep yourself occupied, preferably with other people. It’s good for maintaining friendships, staying busy, and just having fun! Your mind is just like any other muscle in your body; it needs to stretch, it can’t sit still for too long, and social interaction is one of the best ways to keep it working.
This is not only an important tip for summer. As we near the next school year, we face impending afternoons and weekends that come and go without any significant activity. At the beginning of every Monday, as you walk towards whatever thing you do during the week, make sure you have another great story to tell.