When You’re Afraid Of Being Alone

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There is something very strange about being a true extrovert. While you can understand on a purely intellectual level that drawing most of your energy from being around others isn’t necessarily a character flaw, something about it will always seem fairly needy. You are almost forced to ask if it isn’t something fundamental about yourself that you are incapable of fully enjoying when you’re alone. Because even if you do enjoy your nights at home, you know that they don’t give you the jolt or the satisfaction of a perfect night with a few good friends. And something about this seems unsustainable.

There are also times when it gets bad. You feel this desire — usually starting around the end of the work day, but it could really be any time — to make something happen. You want to see people, to have an adventure, to go somewhere. It’s as though you’re suddenly being overwhelmed with the full weight of how many possibilities really exist at the very beginning of our evenings, and it seems like a crime to allow them to all go untested. It’s almost a small voice in the back of your head which warns you against wasting your time when you could be doing something great.

It is undeniably a feeling of running. You feel like you’re chasing after something and you’re almost positive you’ll never actually catch it, but you don’t want to be stuck at home when all the prizes are being handed out. I can remember many occasions where I called through a good amount of the numbers in my phone because I felt that, if I didn’t, I wouldn’t catch what I was looking for. There was something that needed to be found, that needed to be tried. “What’s wrong with a quiet night at home?” you can hear yourself asking, but it’s never pleasant to imagine that your need is a pathological one. “Sometimes you just want to have fun!” Right?

My friend once told me that her favorite thing to do was to come home, pour a cup of tea, and read a book for a few hours. Something about that seemed at once so perfect and so hard to understand. I couldn’t shake the feeling that you can have a night like that whenever you want, but you never know when something magic will happen while you’re out. No risk, no reward, maybe. But I felt as though she had tapped into a kind of serenity that I didn’t have access to, a comfort with her surroundings and herself as a person that I clearly didn’t have myself (if I so often wanted the company of others).

I’m sure part of it is being young. Even people like my parents — two serious social butterflies — eventually find a more comfortable rhythm of alone vs. in company. But the feeling that you will miss something, that you never know what is going to happen and that you have to chase it, isn’t just about “getting things out of your system while you can.” We all have different ideas about what is essential to accomplish while young, and plenty of it can get done even by someone who prefers to stay home five nights a week. It’s really an escape, perhaps even a feeling of immortality, to be too surrounded by life and distractions to ever really think about the things you don’t want to.

I go almost nowhere without a podcast in my ears. The sound of people talking around me, even when I am totally alone, is a sense of comfort and calm that cannot be reproduced by anything else. The din of company is something that my mind just craves, and it can satiate the feeling of wanting to run, to find something else to fill the time. That same friend asked me, “Don’t you ever just want to listen to some music and empty your head?” I told her that, to me, the sound of people’s voices around me — the feeling of being with another human, even in such a limited way — was music. TC mark

Chelsea Fagan

Chelsea Fagan founded the blog The Financial Diet. She is on Twitter.

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