Why You Should Embrace Being Alone

The best part about living in a place like New York is that it will kick you in the a** one minute and make you fall in love with its grimy, a**-kicking nature a minute later. It's lonely, but it's awesome.

In high school, I didn't know who I was. I often found myself confused as to where I stood on many things, and was especially super aware and sensitive to other people's perceptions of me. My urge to try new things was often dampened by the fear of becoming a social pariah from the mass rejection from my peers. Example: one day, I tried getting some headspace by sitting alone at lunch. It was awful. I felt like such a loser, the word "loner" echoing in my mind in what seemed like infinite waves. I was afraid that someone really "cool" would walk by and catch me sitting sadly in the corner and scream out “LOSER” and call all of their friends and then everyone I knew would circle around me and laugh and laugh because I had no friends. Craziness, I know. But I don't think it's surprising that I ever felt that way. I'm sure someone thought I was a loser because, well, it's high school.

Before my old friends and teachers want to attack me–I'm definitely not saying that it was my peers who made me feel this way–rather, it was merely the result of the anxious mind of an awkward adolescent swimming in the tiny, shallow pond of high school.

Moving to New York City was a wee bit life-changing on that front, to say the least. That "pond" became an ocean, filled with an abundance of space and freedom where no one is looking at you because a) they don't have time b) they honestly and truly do not give a flying f*** about you and c) everyone else is pretty f***ing weird too.

As I mentioned in my last post, this was pretty hard to deal with at first. I remember my first week or two eating lunch alone at the dining hall in between classes. It was equally as awful as it had been in high school, if not more, since I didn't know anyone and seeing groups of friends chatting and eating was very isolating and really brought me down. I was not about feeling like a loser in college, but then I started opening my eyes a little. I realized that most people were, in fact alone. I discovered the bar-like tables along the windows (which have great views, BTW) which were MADE to be used by individual eaters. I discovered the beauty of headphones and Netflix. I started looking forward to these sweet moments to myself where I could just be in my own space and no one would bother me. I started doing other things: people-watching in the park, writing in coffee shops, going to the cinema, trying new restaurants and feeling happy and enjoying my own company. I even ended up meeting a few really interesting people in the process. I felt like an adult (well, ish).

It is definitely super hard, though. And it takes time and practice. I must admit that a part of me is still clinging on to those adolescent perceptions of alone-ness, but I'm working on it. Sometimes I have to take a few breaths and give myself a pep-talk before I walk into a restaurant and ask for a table for one. I have to ignore the paranoia that someone on another table who I make eye contact with might be judging me. And after a little while–when I am deeply intimate with the massive burger and fries I ordered or having a mental conversation with a Degas painting at the MoMA–I'm back to feeling abundant in my own company. Plus, later on when I spend time with other people again, I'll feel super recharged and enjoy their company even more.

It's so refreshing to just...be. I believe you are your truest self when you are alone. And when you embrace the loneliness, when you feel grounded in the presence of your own body, you begin to feel your own warmth. And it's pretty freaking wonderful. You don't even have to go out and do an activity alone to enjoy yourself either. You can be walking to class, eating lunch, or riding the train. Instead of feeling sorry for yourself, just try being present; feel your feet on the ground, the wind on your cheeks, the sweat in your palms, your tongue on your teeth.

Because only then can you eventually learn to be your own best friend, cozy with yourself, fueled by your own energy, fully capable of existing on this earth on your own, not depending on anyone else to be happy.  

Things to do with yourself...

  • Try that restaurant you've been drooling over for months
  • Go to a new museum or gallery exhibit
  • Watch a slam poetry reading
  • Take a walk
  • Go to the movies
  • People-watch in the park
  • Go shopping
  • Grab a cup o' joe
  • Watch some live music