Thought Catalog

A Guide To Being Alone Without Being Lonely

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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?

Sleeping.

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.

Eating.

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!)

Going out.

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.

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. TC Mark

image – Shutterstock
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  • Asdf

    Decent article. My only addition would be, “indifference.”

    It seems with information inundating us more than ever, and life moving at an ever increasing pace, our minds are more prone to generalisations and stereotypes than is otherwise typical. And anyone who is alone is suddenly “miserable,” “lonely,” or something else negative.

    Which makes it sad that you felt compelled to do your “note” and “another note” in the “going out.” part.

  • womp

    I go out by myself–AT NIGHT, shocker–and I take care of myself perfectly fine. I can’t go out at night because I’m a woman and therefore I become some sort of prey for every-guy-that-sees-me?

    Have your wits about you, sure, but the activities I partake in and the time of day that I do them is not dependent on my gender.

    What the fuck is this bullshit.

    • Christina

      agree.

    • Guest

      oh, come on. if she hadn’t said anything about women being safe, people would have freaked out about that too. grow up and stop being so sensitive.

    • Sandra V

      I think her point is emphasized around the relaxing aspect of going alone and the later it gets the less relaxing/safe it is for a woman. Most creepers lurk around in the nighttime. If you’re going out at 11pm, you’re gonna get some weirdos. I’m seriously convinced they have innate “solo woman is in the area” radars.

      Usually, when you’re even remotely attractive creepers approach you.
      It happens to me a lot and I’m not even Adriana Lima over here.
      (Then again, I feel no one would approach me if I was.)

      Personally, I like to leave my late nights for laying in bed, doing my nails, and watching a ridiculous amount of hulu or going out with the friends I have.

    • http://crapodelic.blogspot.com Naomi

      Indeed, indeed.

  • ONE

    Travelling alone is my one and only high. People change when you travel with them. They’re more of an annoyance

    • Jacqueline

      This really depends on what you seek through your traveling plans. Some friends can really make the entire trip more than fun, others can be yes, what you said, an annoyance.

  • Sarah

    Love this article! Sleeping alone and eating alone are awesome. I prefer to have my bed to myself. Of course, sex and cuddling is awesome, but when I’m tired, I want to sleep without anyone on top of me.

  • Guest

    after sitting in bed having watched 4 consecutive hours of HIMYM, this article felt really relatable. loved it!

  • Hodders.

    I agree with Kirsten’s point on women not going out alone, to pubs and bars especially. She’s not saying you can’t look after yourself, she’s simply saying don’t make yourself an unbeknowing target. I’ve been out plenty of times on my own or if I’m meeting someone there who’s a bit late, and most often I’ve been approached by somebody. Not in a threatening, leering way, just approached, and not everyone is as trust worthy as you can imagine.

    • womp

      People get approached all times of day– on the street, on the subway, whatever– and it’s not because people are making themselves a target.

      If I am just sitting alone at a bar, I am not responsible for the way people act towards me.

      I see what you’re saying, but I think your emphasis is in the wrong place.

      • Just Relax

        I don’t think the author of the article was trying to say that women are targets and can’t look after themselves. Going out alone is not the safest thing for men or women. People run the risk of being kidnapped, mugged, etc. Predatory creatures look for the lone/straggling prey.

  • http://www.itmakesmestronger.com/2012/06/a-guide-to-being-alone-without-being-lonely/ Only L<3Ve @ ItMakesMeStronger.com

    […] Thought Catalog » Life Add a comment […]

  • Rakish

    I really did not find this article helpful at all. Every suggestion you offer on things to do alone just seems a bit sad and pathetic. MY advice for anyone reading this article is to take the extra time you have alone and spend it developing a skill or hobby. Learn to play an instrument, speak a foreign language, start a garden, read that book you’ve been meaning to, catch up on a television series. Something that having a significant other would normally be a distraction from.

    • m

      i think one of the points was learning to appreciate doing things alone for the benefits they have as opposed to doing them with other people. i feel bad for you if you feel “sad and pathetic” every time you eat or sleep alone. good luck

  • Joe

    I just got back from a semester in Europe, and now I’m pretty much alone in my aunt & uncle’s house; it’s so boring. But I think this article’s given me some ideas to make the best of it.

    By the way, travelling alone for a few weeks was the most wonderful experience of my life, so you nailed that one.

    • Kirsten Chen

      Wahoo! glad we can relate. You too KS & CAMCAM!

  • KS

    you pretty much nailed it with this article!

  • camcam

    Great article! I’m actually excited to be alone now.

  • http://twitter.com/Amphx AnnamariaPhilippeaux (@Amphx)

    I spend a lot of time trying to explain these concepts to people, as I am definitely a loner by nature, but you do it so much better (: Thank you!

    • Kirsten Chen

      Glad I could be of assistance :)

  • http://bedraggledinthewind.wordpress.com/2012/06/22/be-alone-my-dears-but-never-ever-for-as-long-as-you-live-be-lonely/ “Be alone, my dears. But never, ever, for as long as you live, be lonely” « Bedraggled in the Wind

    […] A Guide To Being Alone Without Being Lonely | Thought Catalog. […]

  • http://twitter.com/Commander_Co0l Tony F.

    missing

    -Masturbation
    -Drinking/drugs
    -Masturbation

  • http://hannahjyx.wordpress.com Hannah J

    Reblogged this on To travel the world & seek grace in all. and commented:
    I do these so often I’m beginning to feel tad lonely :(

  • http://makeupandmirtazapine.wordpress.com makeupandmirtazapine

    I LOVE travelling alone? I feel so free it’s exhilarating, like the world truly is my oyster.

  • http://atreeinthemiddle.wordpress.com Samy

    I’ve been living with my parents in the middle of nowhere with no friends whatsoever. This article definitely gave me that uplifting push I needed to look at life in a different way. Thanks! And agreed, travelling alone is the best experience EVER.

  • Franz

    We should do these together! except, you know, in separate places and all

  • beatrice kt

    Is it just me or are tc articles getting more and more mundane. Not specific to this article, just a general observation. Im not disregarding the reality of this article, just, it’s not a revelation that I haven’t realized prior to reading this, hence mundane.

  • Nikie VC

    Great Article! I was hesitant about taking a solo trip to Portland, OR but this piece dissolved any second thoughts :)

  • http://fascines.tumblr.com hannah

    i hate being alone

  • http://www.littlemisstann.com/2012/06/24/thought-catalog-a-guide-to-being-alone-without-being-lonely/ Thought Catalog: A Guide To Being Alone Without Being Lonely - littlemisstann

    […] 2012 · Leave a Comment · In articles, relationships Article originally from Thought Catalog. By Kirsten Chen. […]

  • http://caaamzzz.wordpress.com rouennecamille

    Reblogged this on Paper Planes: Fly and Get High and commented:
    “Be alone, my dears. But never, ever, for as long as you live, be lonely.” :)

  • Shane

    I’m a person that loves being alone, but this article sounds miserable. So you sit around and eat all day while drinking an entire bottle of red wine and watching 4 hours of a sitcom? Yes, you’ve proven your point, you’re definitely not lonely!

  • https://thoughtcatalog.com/2012/5-ways-living-in-washington-dc-has-hardened-me-against-my-own-will/ 5 Ways Living In Washington DC Has Hardened Me Against My Own Will | Thought Catalog

    […] Merriam-Webster just got SERVED. “Lonely”: adjectiveˈlōn-lē a: being without company b: cut off from others. Wrong. […]

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