One of the most important things you can learn in your 20s and in life is to learn how to be alone. The older I get, the more I recognize the importance of being able to just sit in my own skin, be completely okay with it, and even enjoy and savor it. This quality is at worst, pitied, and at best, given the reaction of “Oh wow, I respect that but eating alone is so saaaaad…” The ability to be alone and be perfectly fine with it is something that carries over to so many other parts of your life that it’s almost a necessity. It helps you throw away toxic relationships with ease, it helps you become more introspective, it helps you define what it is that really makes you happy without the social pressures that come from being surrounded by people all the time. So, how do you start to learn how to be alone?
Run Errands Alone
No one wants to go with you while you decide what brand of mouthwash is right for you, sorry to break it to you. Your friends might have humored you while you were in college, but ain’t nobody got time for that. But, taking 30 minutes to decide which mouthwash to buy alone, can surprisingly be really awesome. When you’re running errands alone, whether it’s buying toiletries, groceries, or shopping, you don’t have to consider another person that might be waiting around for you. Running errands alone is one of the easiest things to do alone, so if you’re hesitating, start with this one.
Go For Coffee Alone
I’m not talking about a grab and go Starbucks. Taking time with a cup of quality coffee is one of the greatest simple joys in life. For your first coffee date alone, I suggest going to that hole-in-the-wall, independent coffee shop with neat interior and huge comfy couches and bringing a book you can lose yourself in. Ignore the pretentious regulars that might make you feel self-conscious about you instagramming the amazing latte art in your one of a kind mug and just do you.
Take Yourself Out To A Meal Alone
I admit this one can be pretty intimidating to do. But when you decide in your mind that you want to take yourself out to a meal alone, you start getting excited. You start picking out what outfit you want to wear, look at the menu beforehand, and this all builds up the anticipation of going out for a meal that you can enjoy without having to worry about what to talk about to fill in the silences when both people are chewing. Start out really casual then slowly build up to more fancy. I admit, I’ve only gone to more casual places and am still working up towards a more proper sit down restaurant, but I still am happy and proud that when nobody wanted to get pancakes with me, I said to myself, “You know what, I’m getting pancakes, anyway”. And those pancakes were damn delicious.
Watch A Movie Alone In A Theatre
Who the heck made this a regular date activity? This is one activity where being with another person is actually useless. It’s quiet, it’s dark, and 4 out of 5 of your senses are probably being occupied. It’s important to pick a good movie to watch alone, that can inspire you to watch more movies alone. With so many good movies about 20-somethings or mindless comedies that have been in theatres lately, you really have a lot of options to choose from. One of the best movies I watched in theatres alone was A Coffee in Berlin, and it was such a good experience that it continues to inspire me to seek out indie films (but really pick whatever genre floats your boat) to watch alone and that I can appreciate, without having to go with some snob who hyper-criticizes every detail.
Go To A Bar Alone
So, I’ve yet to do this because in part it is still really intimidating, especially when you think people are staring at you, and you feel transported back to high school and also because there aren’t many bars in my city that can cater to a flying solo crowd. Some ways we might be able to ease into this activity is getting to the bar 30 minutes earlier than the promised time to spend some time people watching or even talking to the bartender. Just because you go somewhere alone, doesn’t mean you have to leave it alone! No phones allowed on this escapade!
Again, something I’ve yet to try but am absolutely dying to do. I imagine for this one, a lot of planning and saving has to be involved, since you’re not able to rely on another person for company or splitting costs. I suspect that it might be easier in some ways too, since you don’t know anybody and that can be quite refreshing. In my most recent trip to Europe with my best friend, there were days when both of us were able to have a day alone to explore the city we were in. One day in Paris, she stayed in while I was able to go to the Pompidou, a modern art museum that I had never been to before. I got a coffee and practiced my French, roamed and admired the art and architecture, and felt an overwhelming amount of satisfaction as I sat and people-watched. Being able to spend a day alone in a foreign city brings about a different kind of confidence and one that stays with you after the trip is over.
Repeat Without Any Crutches
Something that I hope to challenge myself with, once I’m able to do all of the above alone, is to repeat without using any crutches. No phone, no book, nothing. To fully take in your surroundings alone, without anything to divert our attention can cause some anxiety. I want to know what it feels like to really be alone, nobody texting or liking my social media posts, and to savor and appreciate that I really am doing this for me and no one else.