There is a notable difference between being alone and being lonely that is too often overlooked in our fast-paced, well-connected, western world. Being alone does not always correspond to being lonely, just like having company doesn’t always correspond to being happy and fulfilled. The very same activities that we participate in solo and are often perceived by the outside world as “depressing” can also turn out to be some of the most self-fulfilling and meaningful experiences we have. For, who better to share a good time with than ourselves?
I thought about this while drifting off to bed one night (alone) and got to wondering: in common situations, how can we be alone without being lonely?
I’ll begin with the topic of sleeping. Sleeping alone is severely underrated. Naturally, it’s a difficult thing to become accustomed to if you’re used to having a sleeping buddy, but not everyone is used to that and not every sleeping buddy is so great. Sure, getting tangled up in another person can be fun and emotionally fulfilling and all that jazz. But, it can also be really annoying and uncomfortable and sometimes invasive (One night stands? No, thank you.) On the other hand, when you have an entire bed to yourself, that’s when the magic really happens. To newcomers, I would suggest power bombing into bed, posting up right in the middle of the mattress and surrounding yourself with no less than one full shelf of plush Pier One pillows. And that’s just for starters. When you sleep alone you can starfish the sheets all through the night and no one is going to say a damn word about it. In fact, no one is going to say a word, period. There will be no one snoring or asking you to turn down the TV or turn off the light. Perhaps most importantly, there will be no one there to judge you or question you when you spend four consecutive hours watching How I Met Your Mother re-runs in your underwear and finish off a whole bottle of red wine in the process. Conclusion? Sleeping alone can be the bees knees. And if you ever start to feel lonely about it, set your alarm to MC Hammer’s “Can’t Touch This” and do the running man out of bed the next morning. Trust me, this is therapy at its finest.
Have you ever seen Last Holiday starring Queen Latifah? First off, if you haven’t, you need to get your sh-t together and go watch it right now. It is a sensational film. In one scene, Queen Lah dresses up in this stunning red gown and takes her self out to an impressively garish dinner. She then proceeds in ordering every single scrumptious item on the menu. Subsequently, she becomes friends with the happens-to-be-famous Chef, relishes in food heaven and has a fabulous night to remember. Though the rest of us might not be lucky enough to garner a famous chef’s attention just for eating out alone, it can still be an especially enjoyable activity to take part in solo. Personally, I like to give my mealtime my undivided attention and shower each item with the proper amount of affection. And, why not? Delectable dishes like puff-pastry escargot, thin-sliced beef carpaccio and McDonald’s extra-crispy-snack-wrap-with-ranch-dressing are not only full of savory goodness, but also provide us with the divine fuel that keeps us burning. Out of pure respect, we should be honing in all of our energy on the senses of sight, smell and taste while eating. As for listening and speaking? Sorry, no time for games.
Now, even though eating alone is cleary a life-changing, liberating experience, I will admit that there are times when it can quickly morph into a lonely experience. Valentine’s Day is one of those times (admit it, already). Your birthday, Christmas, and every other holiday are the rest of them. It doesn’t mean you need to latch on to the nearest +1 in sight, though, it just means you should probably use a life-line. Mom and Dad are always a reliable date option, and more often than not they’ll pick up the bill. Added bonus, right there. If you have no Mom/Dad nearby or simply despise your relatives, plan a get-together with your makeshift family (See: friends.) And if you have no friends nearby, make some. Or, volunteer. Better yet, pull a full-blown Queen Latifah. (And then please, please let me know how it goes!)
Now, this is an interesting one. Going out alone is too often equated with having no friends. But venturing out on your own allows for a wide variety of otherwise impossible options. For one, you can sit back, relax and get some prime-time people watching in without any interference. For those more interested in interacting, you immediately become privy to your own personal expedition as you have total say in where and how your night goes. There’s no commitment to certain places with certain people at certain times. You, hereby, have free range to invent an entire new persona for the evening. Penny Lane the professional dog-walker? Mark Zuckerberg the artistan cheese-maker (“I know, I know it’s such a crazy coincidence, right!?”)? Kaya Tan the freelance writer with a twin sister named Maya? Whatever floats your boat. Just make sure you google one or two impressive facts about your new profession prior to heading out.
NOTE: Women, please reserve this mainly for the daytime hours/reasonably early evenings. Or at least have a friend to meet up with eventually and a phone on you. (No Doubt’s “I’m Just A Girl” is blaring between my ears right now and I can imagine Gwen Stefani giving me the finger. I’m sorry, ladies, but safety first.)
ANOTHER NOTE: Men, don’t be f-ckin creepy. Seriously, we’ve had enough.
Traveling kind of follows the same logic as going out, except enhanced. It can be unbelievably exhilarating to go it alone. There are the initial bouts of fear and doubt that precede the exhiliration, of course, but they don’t last long if you don’t let them. Whether you’re a cross-country drive or a trans-atlantic flight from home, that first moment when you pause where you are, take a deep breath and open your eyes to an unknown land, a shiny new light is shed on your entire soul. You discover possibility in the rawest form of excitement. You discover the love of wandering about, without. Without people or boundaries or over-sized luggage. And then, within yourself, you discover a newfound adventure land to explore – this is the most daring adventure of all.
So, go ahead and do you, boys and girls. Own the uncomfortable in-between where you experience the mélange of weird and wild. Play around in the lingering space that the world calls “loneliness.” Dance in your thoughts and make sure they don’t get too boring. Feel out the difference between your mind and everyone else’s and appreciate your inner-monologue as your longest standing friend.
Be alone, my dears. But never, ever, for as long as you live, be lonely.