There is a mighty large difference between being alone and being lonely. I’m a month away from turning twenty, and, on quiet afternoons such as these, I wonder why I ever felt guilty about liking solitude as much as I do – because, although I’m often alone, I’m never lonely.
I really enjoy my own company. Sitting in a quiet place and watching life pass me by is one of my favorite things to do. But, as I grow older, I wonder if I’m wiser, and I know that the one thing I’ve really embraced is my solitude. It’s a celebration.
So I thought of all the things I learned to do alone over the years. To tell you the truth, it feels pretty damn wonderful to finally acknowledge that I am, after all, my own person. And it’s time to revel in it rather than run around in circles trying to find purpose in the company of others when there’s peace within myself.
1. Take yourself out on a date.
Whether in a relationship or not, some days you just need shameless indulgence. You can fight it and get progressively more miserable, or you can put yourself on a pedestal for a night, afternoon, or elegant brunch.
Lavish attention on yourself like the best of suitors. Do what you’d do on an average first date. Put on your favorite bra. Trim that beard. Spritz on the special perfume. Wear make up if you like, but make sure you feel good about yourself. Because, guess what, you deserve it.
Eat at a fancy restaurant, or take a leisurely walk around the neighborhood, whatever floats your boat. And when the day is over, look in the mirror and thank yourself for a wonderful time.
2. Go to the beach.
Don’t worry about sunscreen and ugly tans for a while. Sit in the shallow waves and let the salt wash away all the heaviness in your heart. Forget about taking pictures or documenting the sunset. Sure, you can do it if you want, but being alone at the beach is like free falling with an invisible parachute attached to your jumpsuit. Make the most of your solitude. Not having to share your beer is just a bonus.
3. Join a class or pursue a hobby just because you want to.
In an age where performance anxiety gets even to the best of us, we’ve lost touch with the sound of our own hearts. Outdoing our peers has become the primary aim of wanting to excel at something and, needless to say, we all fall prey to it. So, for a change, join a class alone. Or take up those YouTube DIY projects. Do it all by yourself, for the joy it gives you and nothing else. It doesn’t matter if it is a piano class or a “how to paint your nails” tutorial. As long as it makes you happy, do it.
4. Eat by yourself.
Go to a restaurant, cafe, or a bar and order something you wouldn’t normally pick on the menu. If you’re uncomfortable with the idea of sitting alone, take a book with you. Disconnect from your phone and laptop though. Focus on the food; savor every hit of acidity, every note of spice, and every grain of sugar. Let people stare. Tune out the pitying glances from strangers – a meal doesn’t need moral support. Don’t fence yourself in.
5. Travel to a place you’ve never been.
Going solo can be an overwhelming experience at first. But then you’ll realize there’s a whole world of opportunities, and you’re your own mapmaker. Take the chance to wander where your feet ask to go and full permission to take a break when you want to. Places and faces turn into temporary homes and there is an awe that comes with understanding that these are memories you’ve made all on your own, that no else has the slightest claim over them – solitude is often the best travel buddy.
6. Lose your way – at night.
Drive around aimlessly and turn that GPS off. Get lost if you must. Then find your way back through the dusty lanes and trees you never had time to look at. Cities come alive at night; it’s a different world after sundown. And we only ever spend time driving back with friends or rushing home after a long day of work. Take your time and really look at your surroundings and listen to the sound of your own thoughts while you’re at it. You may just lose yourself. You may just find yourself.
7. Compliment yourself.
Strip in front of the mirror and look at all the bumps and lines and stretch marks that you hate. Look at them, and tell yourself it’s okay. You don’t have to pretend to love them. Self-love is hard in theory, even hard to practice. Acceptance is key though, especially when so much of our self-esteem depends on what others think of us these days. And it’s a shame really, because, unless you’re truly at peace with yourself, the assurance of a stranger will never be enough. Make a list of all your virtues. Tell yourself you may not be the best looking person in the world, but you’re pretty darn good just the way you are.
8. Tell yourself you’re shit when you deserve that.
If you make a mistake, shake yourself up. Own up to it, rather than waiting for someone else to confront you, because the guilt that surfaces then is ten times as bad. So you had an unproductive day in your pajamas and you have a whole week’s backlog of assignments to do – don’t get complacent and say it’s okay if it isn’t. You must admit you’re letting yourself down. Sometimes, you need to be your strictest critic.
9. Pay your own bills. Or, if you can’t, learn to manage your finances.
Not only is this an invaluable life skill, it could also make or break you in the future. It is far too easy to rely on someone to help you with managing your money, but if you don’t stop using someone as a crutch you will never learn to be independent. As much as it hurts to admit, the one thing that holds the world together is money. You’ll need it irrespective of what you choose to make of your life. And the price of dignity can potentially cost you your confidence and your future.
10. Just be. Without worrying about what you’re expected to feel.
Let the moment you’re in get under your skin. Stay put for a while. Touch the walls or the tree trunks, whatever the case may be, and marvel at their texture. Sit down in a quiet corner, look around you with your eyes wide open, and your mind open even wider. Think about the people who were here before you, the thumping of their footsteps or the quietness of their breath as they sat in the very same spot, perhaps thinking of the very same things. Feel the place, and let it move you. Let the magic of it crawl up your skin and wind its way into your heart until it becomes a part of you. Zone out, and tune in to yourself.
Solitude is a wonderful companion.