There’s something really beautiful about being alone.
And no, I don’t mean the “alone time” that happens when you’re sleeping or showering or grocery shopping or doing something you’re required to do to keep up with life.
I mean true, meaningful, down-to-the-core alone time. The art of being alone.
Whenever I’m out to eat with a friend, I always look for the person in the corner or at the bar who’s dining alone. (Sidenote: Is that weird? Oh well.) Why? Because it takes a lot of gut and courage to eat alone. Many of us would never even consider walking into a restaurant and asking the hostess for a table for one. We’d much rather order in and avoid the awkward inner monologue that happens when they take the other placemat and set of silverware away after sitting down: “Who do I talk to?” “What do I look at?” “Am I eating too quickly?” “Is anyone watching me?” “Does my waitress think I’m crazy?”
Usually, if you really look closely, these diners are the most interesting kind of people. They sit in the corner on Sunday mornings with their paper, a full carafe of coffee, and an inquisitive look on their face, as if they’re deeply engrossed in some deep, deep thought. They sit at the bar on a Tuesday night, and their face lights up when the bartender brings over a burger (with extra cheese), french fries and a glass of white wine. They look around, and then smile with a look of gratitude and oh-so-guilty pleasure. It’s their time to indulge. Their time to appreciate being alone. And they couldn’t be happier.
I don’t eat alone at restaurants near as much as I should. What I’d give for a few hours each night to sit alone, to reflect, to dream, to appreciate who I am as an individual, alone. To revel in the culinary (& personal) pleasure of ordering whatever you want, judgement free. I wish I had their courage.
I do, however, spend what I’d consider an above-average amount of time doing other things on my own. Sometimes, I spend entire days on the weekend, alone. I go to coffee shops, people watch, take long walks, and watch movies. All alone. AND I LOVE IT. Seriously, the freedom from having to make conversation and the beauty of making decisions how and when you want to make them… It’s glorious.
I started running a few months ago, and ever since I realized how incredible it was to spend that time focused on myself, my muscles, & my endurance, my “me” time has become even more important to me. I schedule hours on the weekends, devoted to long runs, and post-run coffee sessions at the Starbucks on my corner. I wander down Columbus Avenue, stare at the Kate Spade and Theory window mannequins and wonder what kind of women shop inside. I walk several avenues just to test the olive oil and bread at our neighborhood French grocery store (because they have those in NYC). I give my head time to relax, my heart time to rest, and my soul time to breathe.
I wouldn’t give up my alone time for anything. I repeat, anything.
I’ve always been independent. I’ve always enjoyed doing things on my own. And I’ve written about why that (ambition and religious beliefs aside) may make dating or developing relationships with people a challenge. I’m not, by any means, saying that it’s a bad thing that I like to spend time being on my own. Or an undesirable personality trait to men. What I am saying is that it makes those relationships and that process just a little bit different for me. And that’s ok.
I would never (even for a second) wish that I was any different. I’m so thankful for my independence. For my ambition. For my faith. For my desire to spend time getting to know myself, and who I was created to be. Even if you said that things in my dating life could be different, I’d never give up the years, months, and weeks that I’ve spent on myself. Time I’ve devoted to figuring out who I am, on my own terms.
Because I truly, from the bottom of my heart, believe that you can’t really know and appreciate others until you really know yourself. And you can’t be deeply invested in relationships if you haven’t figured out what qualities you value in people.
So I thank my lucky stars for my independence every day. I’m thankful for the time I walked the Brooklyn Bridge, alone, and spent hours wandering through Brooklyn, exploring & thinking. I’m thankful for the time I decided to move my entire life to New York, alone. I’m thankful for each and every weekend I scribble alone time in my agenda.
Because those solitary moments help me appreciate life a little deeper. Help me appreciate myself a little more. And help me appreciate others on an even greater level.
Help me understand that I’m never really alone.
And one day, someone’s going to be oh-so-thankful that I spent those years in my twenties figuring that stuff out. At least, I hope so 🙂
So here’s to picking up that burger you (and I) are dreaming of, and eating alone.