The Loneliness Problem
My bestie has a romanticized version of my life where I am a perky, social butterfly always engaging in social activities. This isn’t true. I spend most days alone when I’m outside of work. I tend to keep my personal life in solidarity.
I’m not averse to being around people. I’ve made the decision to be content being alone. My state of solidarity allows me to relish my life in different ways than super extroverts.
In practice, I hang out with friends, spend time on the phone with family, and rest around a fire pit with my housemates. To my bestie’s credit, I am a social butterfly at social events. But those are anomalies in my daily routine.
I wasn’t always at peace with this idea of being alone. I grew up in a large household where everyone shared everything. There weren’t enough restrooms to go around and weren’t enough space to spend alone. I was reliant on the people around me; I would get sad if I was alone too long.
Once, my grandmother took forever to pick me up from school. Turns out, she fell asleep at the wheel a few moments after she entered her car. This was before everyone had cell phones, so there was no way of reaching her. I was close to tears waiting at the school steps, contemplating whether I should walk home alone.
In college, I had times where no one wanted to grab lunch or dinner, so I would go to the campus cafeteria alone. I found the experience miserable because I didn’t socialize with strangers at other tables. My resolution was I brought food back to the dorm and eat in the common area instead where there would always be people hanging out.
This habit continued into my early working life. I had some of these same fears eating at restaurants alone. In a conversation with my housemate’s cousin, she told me about her experience after beating cancer. She said she had no worries about being alone anymore. There’s too little time in life not to appreciate good restaurants, so if that means going alone, so be it. Her motto in life made me re-think the way I approach being alone.
And being alone doesn’t mean one-on-one time with your phone. Quite the opposite. I like to bring a composition notebook and write or draw if I’m in a restaurant. Or people watch. Or talk to the waiter.
I was on a business trip this past week. There was two days there was no one around to grab dinner with. I’ve used the “alone” mantra to justify eating alone. It was a great experience because I got to talk with a sushi chef and an bar tender about their experiences. Also, there was a lot of people watching. So the big lesson learned is not every activity alone has to be depressive. Look past your ego, suck it up, and enjoy yourself alone.