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Be A Hermit, For Your Own Sake

Scotland, it might surprise you, is not the most evidently hospitable part of the world. If one can get over the difficult acclimatisation to the rain, or the sunset at four in the afternoon, I found that the most difficult part of St Andrews was the rhythm of life. I’d describe St Andrews as a work-hard-play-hard type of environment, and it’s easy to lose sight of oneself in the midst of balls and assignments, of trying to scrape together enough sleep to function, and weekly pub crawls, of caffeinated nights spent working in the library until you’re gently asked to scram at two in the morning and dodging questions in tutorials—it’s an intense lifestyle.

I won’t pretend to be a social animal or to have a very large social battery, but I believe that most find this rhythm a tad intense at times. Therefore, I believe it to be incredibly useful to understand the advantages of, and perhaps the benefits of, partaking in hermitting practices. By that I don’t mean the cave-dwelling, raggedy clothes, smelly version one might have in mind. What I mean by hermitting is a time of aloneness: calm, collected, and introspective.

The more American ones out there will call it a ‘mental health day’—to be read with heavy vocal fry—but it’s about so much more than just mental health. It’s about taking a breather to recenter oneself. When in company, we all put on facades; we’re not really ourselves in the same way we are alone. By continuously having our facades on display, I think we lose sight of who we are behind them.

We all have those friends who seemingly spend all their time out and about, who, yes, are great fun, but one wonders how they don’t get tired of always putting on a show. If such a large part of your time is spent being someone other than your natural ‘alone’ self, would you not lose contact with that part of you, the real you? I think all people in the world, but especially in St Andrews, whether social animal or socially limited, could do with a bit of hermitting every once in a while.

My personal hermitting practices, which I put into action probably one weekend a month, consist of having a deadly calm day, where I can just disconnect from the outside world, without all the worries and stresses that go with it. I wake up when my body naturally makes me, I read in bed, go for a walk on the coast, make a good dinner, watch a movie in bed, and fall asleep when I feel tired. I try to live, if only for a weekend at a time, without all the outside things which usually dictate my day: work, unnecessary socialising, disturbances. I’m wonderfully alone with myself, and I can be exactly that: myself. After my little hermitting episode, I’m recharged and ready to be a better friend and student, and I feel like my time has been put to good use by doing nothing productive.

One could call it antisocial, and they’d be right in the sense that it’s doing everything but being social. But think about it—humans may be social animals, but our current world requires so much more socialising than our ancestors five thousand years ago, or even one hundred years ago, had to deal with. We’re not designed to be constantly social, which the combination of social media and real-world interactions forces us to be. We need to be alone, if just for a day at a time.

We could all do with not only being more like our real selves every once in a while, and having those around us be more authentic. It would be a much more relaxed and healthy world to live, and socialise in.

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