How I learned to be my own plus one

If you’ve ever seen a person eating dinner alone at a crowded restaurant and thought to yourself, “Man, I would NEVER do that,” then you and I have a lot in common. As an extreme introvert, I’m used to being the quiet one at parties, the shy girl at the office, and the “listener” in my group of friends. I’ve been that way my whole life, and honestly, I’m cool with that.

Introverts need to have time to themselves, however, and I am no exception. If I’m around too many people for too long I inevitably begin to feel stifled, and I need to break away from the crowd to center myself again. But as much as I love my alone time, one thing I have never been able to get on board with is the idea of doing things that are traditionally considered group activities, such as eating out, going to movies, etc., by myself.

But this year, I decided that maybe these brave souls who venture into the realm of solitude, just might be on to something. I knew going into it that 2015 was going to be an interesting year for me. At 27, I’m more aware of myself than I think I ever have been. I know now what I like and what I don’t like, and I’m slowly moving away from the inane need to please everyone. One big change for me has been navigating adult relationships. The older you get, the more you realize that your friends and family are just as busy as you are, and trying to find time to connect and hang out is almost impossible. Even my boyfriend, who I have always been able to count on as a partner in crime, is busier with his career more than ever, and syncing up our schedules is sometimes next to impossible.

I was faced with a choice. Either miss out on all of the things I wanted to do, see, and experience if no one could go with me, or put my big girl panties on and just get out there! So, I chose the latter. I decided that I would challenge myself to try doing something new each month. All by my lonesome.

You have to understand that for someone like me, facing these social situations alone is intimidating and scary as hell. I need that comfort blanket of having someone else there to speak first, carry on conversations, and alleviate the feelings of panic and uncomfortableness. The feeling that everyone is staring at that odd girl hanging out by herself is real, and it happens to me on a weekly basis. I can’t explain it, it just is.

For me, part of the fun or enjoyment that comes from doing things in life is being able to share that experience with someone else. If you can’t share it with someone, what’s the point? Even mundane daily tasks like going to the grocery store or getting your car washed seem to be more enjoyable if you have a buddy along. A long day full of errands: not so fun. A day full of errands AND friends: not so bad! This would be hard, but I wanted to challenge myself. “I’m a smart, interesting woman,” I told myself. “Let’s give it a try.”

So, I started out small. Baby steps, I told myself. You got this. Going to the grocery store for example, has always been a tandem activity for me, so I picked hitting up the local grocer as my first step to self-sufficiency. I always figured that a mundane task like grocery shopping is way more fun if you are with friends. But guess what? It was actually pretty enjoyable going alone! I took my time, moseyed around the aisles I usually skip, and successfully got everything on my list. Success? I think so!

Over the past few months I’ve gone to a few movies I wanted to see, I’ve eaten at new restaurants I’ve been dying to try, I went to an Arts and Crafts fair, and I’ve hit up some local art shows. By myself. I’ve also taken to going for long walks or drives alone, and used that time for holistic reflection and peace of mind. And you know what? I have enjoyed every single outing so far.

I still have the rest of the year left to go, but I’ve learned a lot from this challenge that I set for myself. The first is that I’m a heck of a lot braver than I gave myself credit for. Secondly, there is a good chance that the only one who feels awkward about you being solo is probably yourself. Actually, interestingly enough, I meet more new people when I am alone than when I am with a group. Who would have thought, right?

But what I’ve taken away more than anything else from this experience is that my own company is actually pretty awesome. I don’t need to be with someone to enjoy life. In fact, I’ve come to believe that it is critical to your self-awareness and well-being to “date yourself”, as I’ve taken to calling it. It actually feels really great to not have to compromise or be on anyone else’s time but your own. Treating myself to something I know I will enjoy has been beyond empowering. I may not be a social butterfly, but I have a confidence now I never would have dreamed of six months ago. After all, you spend 100 percent of your time with yourself. Might as well enjoy it.

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