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The following post was written by Bridge Year Fellow, Sonia Rao.

Every night, I sit on the hammock outside my porch nestled deep in the El Yunque rainforest and listen to the coqui sing.

   For my first few weeks here, the coqui (a Puerto Rican frog famous for its loud whistle) were some of my only companions. That sounds sad. But today, I make the case it is actually the opposite.

One of my biggest fears for my gap year was loneliness. The thought of being by myself for weeks – maybe months – terrified me. I would miss living with my friends, going to parties, having deep conversations at 2 a.m., laughing so hard my stomach hurts.

The owners of the bed & breakfast I work at are an elderly couple. I eat dinner with them every night, which is nice, and sometimes we go on day trips together. But until another volunteer joined me here, I was alone. I ate breakfast alone, watered the plants alone, painted the porch alone, hiked alone, went to the beach alone, etc. And…I realized that I loved it.

   I spend my free time in the rainforest reading books, listening to podcasts, exploring, watching new shows on Netflix, working on projects I’ve never had the time for, painting, writing. I have not been bored once. I go to bed by 9 p.m. every night! It’s amazing!

In college, I made plans with friends constantly because I felt pressure to do something “fun” every night. I would go to social events even when I would have rather stayed home because I didn’t want to miss out on anything. I was exhausted from constantly draining my social battery, but never taking the time to recharge it.

I think society has a stigma against being alone. People are afraid of it, do everything they can to avoid it, are made fun of or pitied for it.

My whole life, I’ve lived with other people – my family, college friends, coworkers at summer jobs. This is my first time being by myself, and I’m choosing to embrace it. Learning to love your own company is a daunting task, but I am hoping it teaches me lessons about who I am, what I enjoy and what is important to me.

And I’m increasingly thankful for the little things, like how my grandparents and mom never fail to answer my (many) calls, or the long-distance friendships I’ve maintained through letters, postcards and Facetime.

In a few short weeks, I will be at home for the holidays surrounded by the people who love me. I can’t wait. But until then, I’ll enjoy the companionship of the coqui, and other various rainforest critters I’ve met so far.

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