Thought Catalog

How To Be Alone

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Go to sleep too late. Wake up too early. Eat bagels in a strip mall with someone you had a class with at community college. Spend lunch breaks wandering grocery store aisles. Meet your mother at a diner. Attend “bar night” with some co-workers. Leave last. Smoke a cigarette. Paint your nails blue. Have sex right away or don’t have it at all. Look up flight prices to exotic locations. Write a craigslist ad and don’t respond to any of the replies.

Talk to people. Nod your head. Review conversations you’ve had. Suspect there’s something wrong with you. Take personality tests, expecting if not answers then at least a diagnosis. Move into a house with two men who become best friends. Go to the movies by yourself and pick one that starts in 15 minutes because it starts in 15 minutes. Buy an ice cream bar from the concession stand. See your roommates. All of you have tickets for the same movie. Bite your ice cream and grin at them.

Sublet a one-bedroom apartment. Buy a plant. Sleep in clothes. Pop zits. Talk into a miniature tape recorder. Photograph your kitchen. Drive to 24-hour grocery stores. Set three alarms. Listen to books on tape. Read until your muscles are cramped and it’s hard to be comfortable. Use old gift cards. Think of baking something. Think of fixing your bike. Take notes in biology. There is a class of bacteria that only survives in extreme climates like deep-sea hot springs. After class ask your professor what they’re called. He says “Archaea,” and looks like he wants to start a conversation.

Get little cuts on your hands from things no one else does. Edges of doors, Post-it notes, a pineapple. Feel like you need to pay people for interacting with you. Masturbate standing up in the living room looking out the window. Stare at an open sore on your finger. Rub it with saliva and watch the surrounding skin redden. Wonder if you’re allergic to yourself. Notice alien, almost slapstick qualities of your naked body in the mirror.

Move into your mom’s condo. “We’re just eating it because it’s here,” she says about a cake. At night she clamors around the kitchen, looking for pecans. She warns you of a man she’s seen in the bushes. After she goes to sleep, exercise in her condo’s small gym. Jog on the treadmill and watch six astronauts on TV receive time-delayed messages from their families. One astronaut is preoccupied with his watch. Run past the bushes on your way home.

Remember dates you’ve had. Take baths. Think of the empty space between atoms. Feel your pulse beat under your skin. It sounds like an ellipsis. Drive to see if “20 miles in one direction” is the same 20 miles back. On the radio, bursts of static interrupt traffic reports like sarcastic applause. Remember parties. Look at the phone as if it has a delicious meal it’s not sharing. Eat watermelon in your car. Stare at your fingers on the steering wheel. Wonder how you’re always driving towards the horizon without vanishing into it. Spend two hours in a craft store searching for something you keep forgetting. Examine a cardboard cylinder of pink bath salt. Imagine a team of three miners shaving minerals off giant pink stalagmites in a prehistoric cave, surrounded by air no one else has breathed.

Look for sublets in Vermont, Madrid, Hong Kong. Buy the first deodorant you ever wore. Buy fruits you haven’t tried. Slip and slice open your finger instead of a coconut. Find a cheap flight to Florida and book a three-day vacation. Try to pay for earplugs at the airport newsstand. The woman behind the counter asks to see your photo ID. She says, squinting more at you then your driver’s license, “This doesn’t look like you.” TC mark

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    • Susie Anderson

      megan ass boyle, sweet

      • megan boyle

        susie ass anderson

    • Lea


    • Becky Lang

      i like this.

      • megan boyle

        sweet, becky lang

    • Kyoudai

      Read article about being alone. Relate too well. Wonder if that's good or bad. Think that you have to comment. Think of how to comment. Start typing comment, correct errors. Sigh. Go to top of page. Read again. Go back to work.

      • megan boyle

        hi kyoudai, happy you could relate/thanks for commenting

    • DiTrapano

      God, this was so good.

      • megan boyle

        sweet :)

    • tao


      • megan boyle


    • Ray Straight

      subtitle: An Esoteric Collection of Details and Impulses.

    • Nive

      i love this post

    • Nive

      story of my life. im not sure if thats a good thing or a bad one.

      • megan boyle

        me too nive/think it's okay

    • stephen

      i like it a lot, Megan

      • megan boyle

        sweet stephen :) :)

    • Michael Koh

      Megan, you can house sit for me.

      • megan boyle

        house sitting sounds fun. if you live within ~6 hours of baltimore i would be down to house sit your house, michael


      wait ppl remember the first deodorant they ever wore? mine was probably Speed Stick, but i will tell ppl it was Arrid Extra Dry because it sounds more underground/depressing.

      • megan boyle

        mine was “teen speed stick” or something like that. sounds druggy…heh…

        • HBGWHEM

          teen speed stick was probably only on the market for a short time before an intern at the company made a 'premature ejaculation' joke abt the product and the board got worried about their 'image'.

      • humblecore

        My first was Teen Spirit. Thanks, Kurt/Nirvana for having it forever be associated with something cool.

    • Morgan

      Really good.

    • adamhump

      great pacing and ending

      • megan boyle

        sweet adam, glad you think so

    • EmiliaBedelia


    • snailshellbackpack

      this article made me feel less bad.

      • megan boyle


    • Brian McElmurry

      You make being alone sound fun

      • megan boyle

        really? nice, happy you thought so brian

    • Jeffrey Skatzka


    • AaronWB

      Feel like I have the opposite experience. Can't get away from people needing shit from me all the time. Feel like being alone and indulging in these kinds of thoughts would be a major luxury.

      • megan boyle

        think i've also experienced that, aaron

        • AaronWB

          BTW, my comment is not a criticism, just a quick reader response. This piece is insightful and, obviously, I'm a big fan of your writing which is why I read it all and comment on it. Can't wait for the book in October.

    • dylan

      This is my life.

    • Jay Frank

      “Read until your muscles are cramped and it’s hard to be comfortable. ” This is why I switched to Kindle, so much lighter.

      • inflammatorywrit

        Kindle: as light as a croissant.

        • Jay Frank

          I dig carbs, good choice of reference.

    • effervescence

      yeah… yeah… yeah. yeah. this is accurate. yeah

      • megan boyle

        hi david, i didn't know you were “effervescence”…hehe…

    • federico

      i go to bed early and get up late so there is less time spent conscious

      • megan boyle

        i've tried that method also, federico

    • barnabe

      being lonely seems so willful

      • megan boyle

        heh heh

    • Luke Pommersheim

      this article reminds me of this poem / video:

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