At the beginning of 2014, I considered undertaking a project of independence. The idea was to identify things that were normally done in pairs or groups (think eating at a restaurant, going to a movie, etc.), and do them alone. The goal wasn’t to make myself lonely, but to see what the experiences were like and see the reactions of other people. Ultimately, I chose not to pursue said project, because I realized that what I really needed to start doing was doing things with other people. However, over the past month, the project has kind of been forced upon me.
Over the past month or so, I’ve been put into situations where doing things alone was really my only option if I wanted to do them at all. When I went to NYC, I arrived a day earlier than the friend who was joining me. If I wanted to eat, I needed to go to a restaurant by myself. And so I ended up at Ruby Tuesday’s, at a table by myself, surrounded by couples and groups of friends. And I ate. When I went to Orlando last week for a conference, I was travelling by myself, and didn’t know anyone else attending the conference. If I wanted to go to any of the theme parks (cough, Harry Potter World, cough), I was going to have to go myself. And so I purchased one ticket. And I went.
To be perfectly honest, both experiences were a little weird. During both experiences, I was very, very aware that I was alone- but I wasn’t lonely. In both cases, it would have been nice to have a friend with me, but it was ok to not. In both cases, being alone wasn’t the end of the world. And sometimes, I wonder if other people realize that. Being alone isn’t the end of the world. Sometimes it opens up new opportunities.
Often these days, I find that people have a huge resistance to being alone, or even worse, going somewhere alone. Back when I used to live in residence, I had friends who refused to go to the dining hall by themselves. If everyone else they could find had already eaten, they simply wouldn’t go. They would order food, or eat whatever they could find in their room, supplemented by the vending machine downstairs. I went down to the dining hall alone all the time. Sometimes I found my friends were already there. Other times I sat with people I sort of knew, and over time, made them into friends. Other times I sat alone, and simply people-watched- cafeterias can be extremely entertaining. But no matter what, no matter who else was going, I always went. And I developed friendships beyond my main group of friends because of it.
What are you missing out on by refusing to go alone? What opportunities are you passing up? I bet you don’t even know. Are you missing out on being involved in an awesome organization because you didn’t want to go to that first meeting alone? Did you miss out on hearing that famous speaker talk because you didn’t want to sit in the audience by yourself? Could you have potentially made connections with some powerful people, but chose not to go alone to that networking event? Did you not see that movie you were looking forward to watching in theatres because none of your friends were interested?
Going alone might feel weird. It might feel awkward. But you should refuse to let the awkwardness stay, and choose to own the fact that you’re alone instead. Capitalize on the opportunities being alone can offer. They’re there, I promise. Now, I’m not telling you to give up on all your friends to take on a solo life. But at the same time, don’t give up on other things just to avoid a solo life either. Being alone isn’t terrible. Try it. You’ll see.
Additional advice: If you can at all avoid it, don’t go to super-expensive theme parks by yourself. While seeing Harry Potter World was absolutely amazing, it would have been infinitely amazing to have been able to share it with someone else!