How I learned to love being alone
By definition, I am an extrovert. I love being around people. I work in customer service. I’ve been known to perform ridiculous choreographed karaoke routines on the spot (If you need me Outkast, I do a killer lip sync to “Roses”). Despite my love of others, I still need my me time. I need time to clear my head and/or work on my five million side projects. I have to marathon Saved by the Bell while eating Cookie Butter out of the jar with a spoon in my Halloween pumpkin shirt and high school sweatpants. I just bought a ticket for a live performance of one of my favorite podcasts for a solo night out on the town. I can honestly say I sometimes appreciate being alone.
I’d like to start out by saying I’m not an advocate of being a hermit, so don’t start painting faces on inanimate objects in your apartment a la Cast Away. I think social interaction is a crucial part of life. What I am saying is being alone is also a crucial part of life. It gives you time to focus on what’s going on with your life without the added stress of having to scroll through the lives of the hundreds of people on your Twitter feed. It gives you time to make decisions for yourself without having to worry about the dreaded FOMO. You get the rare opportunity to disconnect for a while.
I didn’t use to be all about rollin’ with the homies (shout out to Clueless). I used to hate being alone. For someone who is easily entertained by most Happy Meal toys, I couldn’t entertain myself. I always wanted to hang out with someone or have plans to do something. During college, my entire perspective changed. I realized by constantly surrounding myself with others, I wasn’t allowing enough time to think about myself. I didn’t have any time to make decisions for myself, so I was letting others heavily influence every choice I made. I realized I had gotten so caught up in all of the things going on around me that I didn’t know who I was anymore. That’s what led me to my first concert alone.
I wish I could tell you I instantly fell in love with my solo adventures. The first time I decided to venture out by myself, I was supposed to be covering two entirely different concerts for my college newspaper. To say the first went okay would be putting it nicely. I felt super awkward because I legitimately put myself in a corner. I wish I could say I looked like the cool loner girl straight of an indie movie, but I was avoiding eye contact with everyone and awkwardly smiling and bobbing my head like a middle school kid at their first dance the entire time. To make matters even worse, I couldn’t muster the confidence to interview any of the bands performing at the showcase, so I was going to have to write an article without any quotes or insight from the performers’ perspective. After several hours of uncomfortable swaying and fidgeting, I left for my second show.
Fortunately, I had convinced a few friends to meet me at the next show. Unfortunately, my phone battery died by the time I got to the second venue. Add that to having not eaten all day and being a nervous wreck, and you have yourself a pale and faint-feeling college freshman lost in huge city she’s never been alone in. It was like Home Alone without any of the classic holiday family fun.
I will forever be thankful to the concert patrons that gave me advice and allowed me to use their phones. The ride I had lined up for when the show ended (my friends were 21 and planned to go out for a drink after the show, and I was a mere 18-year-old), wasn’t picking up, and I had cleverly only written down her number on a Post-It note in lipstick. At that moment, I decided the best idea was to try to navigate the bus system of downtown Austin. Thanks to the careful guidance (and $2 loan) of the concierge of the hotel I randomly stumbled upon (like Home Alone 2: Lost in New York, without the great Tim Curry working the front desk), I finally found my way home.
I could have let this completely deter me from ever venturing out by myself again, but it didn’t. I kept venturing out and invested in a portable phone charger. I learned how the bus system worked. I volunteered for SXSW by myself the second time and throughout my college career. I finally got so comfortable with being alone that I started buying one ticket to comedy shows and concerts. I plan my entire itinerary in advance. I make sure to have a full phone battery to grab my Lyft or Uber home. The best part is I’ve learned to appreciate the beauty of going to things alone because it gives you a break from the monotonous tasks of adult life. You can get lost in the music of Hozier or the stand up of your favorite comedian. You can people watch while listening to a podcast at your favorite coffee shop. You can have a few minutes to just breathe. You can forget about the money you just spent on that ticket. That’s why I sometimes like to be alone. You never know where you’ll end up.
[Image via NBC]