One of the biggest concerns I had while abroad was whether or not I’d be able to enjoy spending time with others on my program while also giving time for myself to spend in isolation. I want to emphasize the goodness of isolation in this context. It is common knowledge that introverts need their alone time to recharge and stay healthy, and that alone time differs between people, but I know that for me, my alone time consists of me literally alone, by myself somewhere, talking to no one at all. This is the isolation necessary for me to stay healthy and well-rested on a regular basis, and while I know this, there are times when I can’t help but think of what others may think of me for wanting this time of isolation. After all, besides learning Japanese, I did want to make friends and happy memories on this program. With this concern constantly in the back of my mind, for the past month I have put in the effort to socialize—more than I have done in a long time, and because of it, I’ve been able to experience the exciting new things I’ve wanted while abroad.
While spending time with other study abroad students and local students has been amazing, most days it has left me utterly exhausted, and the past couple weekends I have made it a top priority to take at least half a day or so to talk to barely anyone at all. Today was actually one of those days, as for the past three days I have been doing various trips with friends. Today was my rest day, and looking back at it, I have probably spoken aloud less than five sentences and spoken to maybe three people (one being a cashier, and the other two being students I passed by while walking). While pretty severe on the isolation aspect, it is a time that I thoroughly enjoy, and most days I look forward to that time when it comes.
Although I still worry about what others may think about this, since the start of my program I have begun to learn that many people are very understanding of this alone time. For example, a couple of nights ago, a housemate let me know that he and others were going to go out to a bar later that night. Already feeling a bit exhausted and not wanting to reject his offer, I told him I would let him know my decision later in the day. When we arrived home, I took up the courage to tell him that I would rather take the rest of the night to be by myself and apologized. He told me that taking the time to rest was completely okay and there was no need for an apology.
The validation from my housemate left me with a more positive outlook on isolation, as it is not only necessary for me, but it is also okay for me to have and want this isolation. With this in mind, I hope to continue working on maintaining this perspective, as well as balance my time with others and with myself.