The Art of Being Alone

Yesterday, I bought one ticket to a concert at Ale House that I planned on going to by myself.

A few weeks ago, KPP Concerts announced that grandson--an artist I’d been listening to since I was in high school--would be playing at Ale. I was stoked to finally be able to see him live. I tried to find anyone who liked grandson enough to spend $30 on, but had no luck. I decided to buy one ticket and go by myself.

When I told one of my friends that I had decided to go to the concert by myself, she was surprised and encouraged me to keep trying to find another person to go with. She was concerned that I wouldn’t have as much fun going on my own as I would if I had someone with me.

I’ve found that people struggle with the idea of spending time by themselves and with their own thoughts. As someone who grew up introverted, often enjoying my own company more than others’, I never struggled with this. That isn’t to say that I, like most people, don’t feel lonely or experience FOMO, I’ve just never had any serious issues being alone.

While I have always appreciated my time away from others, the first time I realized how valuable my alone time really is was last May when spent three weeks alone in Europe. The latter half of 2018, and first few months of 2019, were very difficult for me. I was extremely anxious and had been feeling the negative effects of a few toxic friendships. This made me feel isolated everywhere I went.

While spending most of my time alone in the winter of 2019, I decided to book a plane ticket to Poland and then work my way West through Europe before flying home from Manchester. When it was time to leave, I felt that this time I had spent alone ended up improving my mindset. I had just spent three weeks being excited to finally be exploring places I had wanted to see for so long, despite being nervous.

Over the course of those three weeks, I spent each day alone in huge crowds of European locals and tourists like myself. I walked for hours by myself exploring Berlin, Copenhagen, Amsterdam, and Liverpool, wandered through museums, and ate and drank coffee on patios and street benches. On my last day in Paris, it was dark and rainy outside, so I went to grab a cup of coffee from a café. I hunched over my notebook and began to reflect on how important the time I spent by myself was to me, and how I could keep that with me as I move forward.

Being alone in Europe gave me the freedom to move at my own pace, participate in experiences I was interested in, and reflect on my well-being. It also gave me the space I needed to grow and learn how to like being with myself.

Since coming back home from that trip, I finished my summer working two serving jobs and started fourth year at a new house with roommates who never make me feel isolated or alone. I still manage to find value in spending time alone by taking my brakes to get a little bit farther in a book, or walking to the library or a café downtown. Being alone with myself, or alone with myself in a crowd, is still something I try to prioritize. It’s something I try to do every day, even if it’s just twenty minutes while I try to organize my thoughts, or to take in and appreciate my surroundings.

While spending time alone is something that I enjoy, I realize that it can be difficult for some people to enjoy being away from others. There are some steps everyone can take to help ease the process and even make it enjoyable.

Start Small

Heading out to a coffee shop with a book or journal to spend time alone in a crowd is the easiest way to start spending time by yourself. There will probably be many other people there who are doing the same thing, which makes it the perfect place to start. This way you won’t be physically isolated from other people, but you won’t be socializing either.

What makes you feel good and what is a source of discomfort?

It’s important to be able to recognize when spending time alone can be therapeutic and when you need to be with friends. If you can do this, you’ll be better able to determine when you might benefit from spending time away alone and when you won’t. 

Push your limits when you get comfortable.

While it’s hard to be comfortable going to a concert or travelling by yourself when you haven’t already spent a lot of time on your own, these things can become really enjoyable with practice. When you feel comfortable spending short periods of time alone in cafes, challenge yourself by spending a longer period of time alone doing something a little bit bigger. Try by going to see a movie by yourself. By continuing to push yourself, you’ll continue to appreciate your time.

While it can be daunting at first, spending time by yourself is one of the most therapeutic and rewarding ways to develop yourself. You’ll grow to appreciate and value your own time, while learning how to be more comfortable in public and in your own skin. The art of being alone is something that anyone can master and benefit from.