Illustration by Paloma Link.

There is a big difference between being alone and being lonely. One concept is spatial, one is emotional, and while the two are connected, they do not have to be intertwined. Somehow it’s been hammered into our heads that anything worth doing is done with someone else. When you think of “summer fun,” you think of girls in bikinis holding hands as they jump off the docks. You imagine park picnics and parties with friends. The hardest part of having fun alone is unlearning this image of what fun looks like. The truth is that being alone is grounding and luxurious. Whether you’re a raging recluse or just looking to fill your Tuesday mornings, learning how to have fun alone this summer is a skill that will make your summer (and your life!) more fulfilling.

1. Go outside!
I won’t waste your time listing clichéd activities that you would either force yourself into or forget. Having fun alone begins with a concept I can best describe as putting yourself into the world around you. I mean this very literally. So often we feel hesitant to leave our space without a real plan, but some of the most rewarding time alone is spent wandering. All you have to do is walk out of your front door and get lost! Let your mind go, explore the nature your home has to offer, take a road less traveled! If you’re unable to go too far from home, take a blanket out to a peaceful patch of grass. Prepare some lemon-infused water and grab your books and headphones. Not only will you soak up valuable vitamin D, but you’ll learn more about where you live and the places your mind goes when there’s no set agenda.

2. Bring some personality into your space.
Putting yourself into the world around you also means infusing your space with your personality. You know those posters under your bed? Hang them up! There are tons of DIY projects you can do to make your space more “you.” That weird antique shop you came across on one of your walks? A gold mine for decorating and repurposing old stuff! Tapestries are great for decorating large wall spaces, and can also double as blankets for one of your picnics. That stack of old magazines under your bedside table may also come in handy here. Rip pages out to collage and hang alongside some of your own photography, or ticket stubs, or notes from friends. And then…submit it to Rookie! If you prefer to keep your walls nice and white, take this time to declutter and get organized. This is not a shove-it-under-the-bed kind of clean. This is a take-it-all-out-and-sort-through-it kind of clean. Tackle your closet! If you haven’t worn it in a year, let it go. With an organized and decluttered room you will be more at ease in your space. And maybe now you’ll finally be able to find matching socks!

3. Dive into yourself.
Luxuriate in your character and identity. This may sound a little abstract but it can manifest itself in many ways, the most obvious of them being indulging in things that make you happy. Whether it’s a rose petal bath or Chinese takeout, figure out what really makes you comfortable in your alone time and do it often. After a long school year, you deserve time to pamper yourself and your tired brain. Binge on a TV show without shame, have a spa day, figure out what kind of self-care works for you or how to do it if you don’t have the time—and above all, remember that you do not have to put on pants for any of this.

4. Spend time with your own projects.
Now is the time to finally pour your brain power into one of your ideas and not one of your teacher’s. This is the time for you to finally finish Crime and Punishment or write the rest of that song you started. This doesn’t mean you have to begin sketching the next Mona Lisa, it means that you have the time to set a goal and to work towards it. Whatever your project is, it comes from you. Now is the time to pay attention to that. It will take discipline and maybe even a structured schedule, but it’ll feel so good to do without the looming specter of the school year’s homework load.

Having fun alone this summer means getting to know yourself and the world around you. With a strong sense of self, you will be ready to go out and socialize when it feels right for you. Friends are not a requirement when it comes to having fun, but if you’re shy, knowing yourself might make it easier to get to know another person. And when it’s real, you may just find that the best friendships are between people who can be alone together. ♦