All by myself

 Do you like spending time alone? 

This is a question I’ve asked myself quite a bit over the years. Some of this is because of how much time I’ve spent being single or in whatever you call the female equivalent of bachelorhood (which is super annoying because why does that word or concept even need to be gendered? Ugh. Patriarchy). After so many Valentine’s evenings spent watching re-runs of my favorite cartoons and intentionally ignoring all the lovey-dovey Instagram posts cluttering my feed, it’s reasonable that a big part of me does NOT love being alone. A big part of me finds being alone a reminder of heartbreak and being (or, at least, feeling) abandoned. 

Like, ok- here are some very real scenarios and situations one finds oneself in when forced to spend a bunch of time alone:

Dealing with the weekly surge of guilt that rises upon clearing out a refrigerator filled with ingredients half-used or untouched after a week of cooking for one- or not bothering to cook at all.

Blasting through an intense and highly engaging show on Netflix or HBO or whatever streaming service du jour and buzzing with the need to talk through all the details with someone, only to feel the massive letdown of realizing that nobody you know has even started the show. So you just impotently google “X Show why does Y Character suck” or other such phrases to see if anyone in the digital ether shares your thoughts.

Trying out a new restaurant and only getting two of the five things you want because you’re alone. And sure, you can order as much as you want if you’re alone because you’re an adult and can do whatever TF you want- but it’s a bit sweeter if someone is there which whom you can enjoy all that delicious food- and split the bill.

When I get right down to it, being alone makes me feel, on some level, unloved- even if that is the furthest thing from the truth.

All that said, spending time alone isn’t all bad. In truth, spending time alone can be FANTASTIC and one of the biggest blessings. When you’ve got time to yourself, you’re the master of your destiny. You call the shots on where you go, when, how you do things, what you eat, and the pace at which you rush or ramble.

I’ve spent some of my favorite times alone.

One of my absolute favorite birthdays in the city was entirely spent alone. I was in my early 20s, a freshly minted New Yorker at the height of the Great Recession. The day was bright, brutal, and steamy (my birthday is at the end of August. Lucky me.), and I was adjusting to a new life. The year before Viacom had wrested away my livelihood in a sweep of indiscriminate layoffs, leaving me a bit of severance and a major ball of anxiety in my stomach. By the time my birthday rolled around, that severance had run out and I’d been stringing together freelance work and odd jobs to make ends meet without having to leave the city only a year into my tenure as a New Yorker.

In short- my life was a fucking mess. But it was my birthday, and I would have a nice fucking day.

The day fell on a Tuesday when everyone else I knew was working hard at their own jobs for fear of being put on the chopping block. And as Tuesday is a super awkward day for a wild night out (even in NYC), I took the chance to savor the city's slower summer daytime rhythm. When everyone is at work, while those who can afford to will relocate somewhere less sticky and stinky and generally less nasty. 

It was a simple day- Brunch at Cafeteria on 7th in the late morning. I probably had some overpriced waffles with berries and bacon. A leisurely stroll to Housing Works’ Chelsea Thrift store to meticulously browse the shelves and display cases. I bought a pair of old glasses frames for less than $10 (which I truly wish I still had today, they were very Grandpa Chic) and a stoneware vase with pear-shaped birds that lives on a shelf in my home to this day. Next, a train ride up to the Met, where I walked through only the sections I cared about and lingered on the pieces of art and sculpture that I liked for as long as I wanted, with no worry about if I was taking too long, and no need to feign interest in European this or Neoclassical that.

And I ended the evening with a gratuitously violent movie (Tarantino, I’m pretty sure) on the Upper West, a bucket of popcorn, and a laughably large Coke.

The point is- being alone can be wonderful. And as played out and corny as the saying can be, being alone doesn’t have to be lonely. There are countless times when I’ve been sitting right next to someone and felt more lonely than when I’ve gone days without speaking to another person. And that’s really about us feeling loved, cared for, and seen.

So while I don’t want to feel lonely, and I don’t want to only ever spend time alone, I enjoy the freedom of choosing when, where, and how I have time to myself. It’s the liberty that gives it the potential for joy.

Photo by Florian Klauer on Unsplash

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