To whom it may concern

Normally advice columns are written by life-weathered mystics with decades of accumulated wisdom. As someone who just recently found out what a mortgage is and who has never once considered separating laundry by color, I cannot claim to be any of those things. However, mediocre advice can still be useful if it comes from an outside perspective; and who knows, maybe someone out there is looking for the same advice as you and you’ll be helping them by asking!

Will Nelson, Senior Columnist

Being back in person for school is great but I’ve started noticing that I get socially exhausted a lot quicker now than I used to. Any advice on how to maintain meaningful friendships and also take care of myself, even if that means spending a lot more time alone?


To whom it may concern,

I’m so glad that you sent this in, because I’ve been experiencing a very similar phenomenon in my life as well! Unfortunately, this means that I don’t really have a good answer for you, but I’ve got a couple ideas that we can try out. 

The social exhaustion I’ve been experiencing– and you may or may not be able to relate to this– has been caused by the fact that, now that I’m a little more comfortable seeing people in person, I feel like I need to be doing it all the time. If a day goes by where I don’t spend a significant portion of it hanging out with my friends, I subliminally consider it wasted. It’s like I’m overcompensating for the time lost over quarantine. The problem is, that’s not really what I’m cut out to do. I forget that I need to be alone sometimes and am constantly exhausted. 

Maybe your situation is different. Maybe you find yourself spending less time around people because even small doses of socializing tire you out after having spent months in isolation. Regardless of your situation, I think we have one thing in common– we’re experiencing a disconnect between our ability to socialize pre-COVID, and now. 

First off let me say that spending more time alone is seldom a bad thing. Of all the friendships you’ll ever have, the one you share with yourself is without question the most important. Like all relationships, maintaining your friendship with yourself takes time and energy. You should never feel guilty prioritizing that over other things in your life. 

But that doesn’t mean you can’t also maintain other relationships. Friendships come in all shapes and sizes, and the only person who gets to decide whether or not they’re meaningful is you. I haven’t spoken to someone who I consider to be one of my closest friends in almost two months, but that doesn’t make our relationship any less valuable to me. As long as both parties understand what the other needs, meaningful friendships can look like pretty much anything. 

The issue, like so many do, falls on communication. Make sure your friends understand exactly how you’re feeling. If they’re good friends, they’ll be happy to make changes in the nature of your friendship to accommodate your needs. If not, it may not be worth pursuing a friendship with them anyways. 

Whether or not we’ll return to our former socializing capacities, time alone can say– but for now, all that’s left is to press on into the future. Be open with your friends, and don’t worry about taking time for yourself.

Thank you for your response, and may the road rise up to meet you.

A lot of people have wronged me, whether it be a romantic partner, my parents, friends..etc, the most common advice I get from others as well as myself is to “not take things personally..” Although I do agree with that statement, I feel as though the conversation that gets left out is exactly “how” do I not take things too personally?

To whom it may concern,

I’m sorry to hear that you’ve been wronged by people so close to you. In general, I agree with you and others in that not taking things personally is a good path to tread in these situations. As with so many phrases in our language, however, ‘don’t take things personally’ gets used so frequently that it’s real meaning gets buried under layers of context and implication. 

When I say ‘try not to take things personally’ when someone in your life wrongs you, I mean to say that I don’t think you should tie your personal value and self perception to someone else’s actions towards you. A romantic partner treating you badly isn’t a reflection of your character, it’s a reflection of theirs. 

I think it’s useful to acknowledge how difficult seeing things in that light can be. With loved ones and people who know you well– partners, friends, family– it can be almost impossible not to fall into the trap of ‘well-what-if-they-have-a-point?’ I’ve found myself wondering in the past ‘if this person knows me so well and is still saying terrible things to me, who am I to say they’re wrong?’

But that’s a dangerous mindset. I don’t know your individual situations, but in my experience when people have wronged me, it’s almost universally because of some stressor or trouble in their lives that spilled over and was taken out on me. Rarely does it have anything to do with my character or actions. In that case, not taking things personally looks like accepting that your offender’s actions are caused by external problems and don’t imply that you’re a bad person. Easier said than done.

So how exactly can this be accomplished? I think that it really all comes down to self worth. It’s easy to rely on the loved ones in your life to provide you with self worth, but conflict arises when those loved ones start treating you badly. Suddenly you’re left with nothing to defend against their attack on your selfhood. 

No, self worth needs to be generated from the inside. Love yourself. Remember that you deserve happiness. You deserve to be treated well by others, and you have the right to cut them out of your life if they don’t do so.

I hear you. Not taking things personally is an incredibly difficult thing to do, and sometimes it’s just outright impossible. But if it means your dignity and your self-image are at stake, it’s worthwhile trying. 

Thank you for your response, and may the wind be ever at your back.

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