As I settled down to watch the movie, I glanced around me and caught the eye of the man sitting on his own a couple of rows down from me. We mutually acknowledged each other with a glance, a nod and then returning to our own little worlds. A mutual acknowledgement of a fellow kindred spirit – for he too was a lone cinema-goer, content in his alone-ness and comfortable with experiencing life without the need to share every second of it with another.
Somewhere in my mid-twenties I discovered the joy of being alone. Upon moving overseas to work, I found myself regularly sitting alone in airports while travelling back and forward to visit family and friends. Through necessity (and my penchant for booking the cheapest possible airline and refusing to pay ridiculous amounts for airplane snacks) I, one day, found myself taking a seat in an airport restaurant completely on my own in order to stave off the travelling hunger pangs while on a particularly lengthy layover. The waitress came by and I ordered a glass of wine and something to eat, then waited and watched the airport world rush by. I felt a wave of self-consciousness as I sat there. Drinking wine alone. Eating alone. What must people be thinking?! Yet, as I glanced around, I realised I was not the only one. Plus, there were very few glances coming in my direction. People were far too busy with their own lives to care about the girl sitting alone in the restaurant. And, surprisingly, I didn’t feel lonely. Maybe this was okay. Actually, this was more than okay. This felt good.
I started to revel in being alone and started to find the joy in treating myself with going to the cinema, seeing a band, stopping for a coffee or even a glass of wine while out shopping, going to a restaurant, and even taking a holiday – all completely on my own.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I love spending time with people and I would always much rather share these experiences with another person. But I don’t rely on that and I don’t allow the need for company to stop me from doing things. In finding a way to be comfortable with being alone, I have learned a lot about myself.
Alone doesn’t have to mean lonely
Alone and lonely are two very different entities. There is a contentedness with being alone, and there is many a reason why being alone can be good for a person. Many religions and faiths in the world advocate time alone for meditation and prayer. Shaman often retreat to mountains or into the forest for weeks and months on end to connect with the gods and spirits. Yet, why do we freak out over even spending an afternoon in the cinema alone? When I decided to be brave and go to Barcelona for a week on my own after other plans fell through, I found a great pleasure in wandering the Spanish streets alone, taking in the beautiful architecture and having time to just be. While looking out at the Mediterranean one evening, I felt very much at peace. Life had been stressful in the lead up to the holiday and the time alone helped me to reset, reconnect and relax. Maybe the Shaman have a good point!
Me without We
I was watching the glorious guilty pleasure television show ‘Don’t Tell The Bride’ when the couple tearfully said goodbye for a couple of weeks saying ‘Oh, we’ve never spent a night apart, this is going to be awful. I don’t know who I am without them.’ Excuse me?! When in a longterm relationship we can often fall into the habit of always referring to ‘We’. We’ll be there! We can’t wait to see you. We can’t make it this week. Somewhere in the midst of all the ‘we’, we forget about the ‘me’! It is so important not to lose sight of who you are on your own and to be as confident on your own as with another person. Anyone will tell you that codependency is dangerous and, speaking from experience, it is important for both parties to be just as comfortable alone. As Dr Suess said: ‘You are you…’!
Not Alone For Long
While on my ‘alone’ times, I have often ended up not on my own at all. A person on their own in a restaurant, bar, coffee place, or at a gig is a lot more approachable than a big group. I have struck up many a conversation with fellow ‘alone’ people simply through the mutual recognition that you are both on your own. Through simply smiling at someone, I have opened the door for conversation and met some fascinating people. The old barfly on the corner can sometimes be the person with the best stories. The other lone gig goer could become a regular ‘gig-mate’ as you both share the same music taste. New friends and connections are always just around the corner.
We all have those things that we enjoy that it seems like no one else loves quite as much as us. Whether it’s listening to improvised jazz in a smoky club, or going to see the cheesiest musical to exist, or simply standing at the edge of the ocean for what feels like hours, sometimes there won’t be anyone else who will endure this simply because you love it. So why wait for someone else? Go and enjoy your guiltiest pleasure alone. Revel in it without feeling the need to justify this to anyone else.
You, alone, are excellent company.