I’ve always been the type of person who was very comfortable alone.
In a lot of ways I prefer it. You could call me anti-social if you want to, but that’s really not the case. In some ways it’s a fault. My fierce independence does have a habit of keeping me an arms length from pretty much anyone, and the moment I feel myself starting to rely on anyone I get a bit of a panic and have no idea how to behave. But in other ways it’s very helpful. I can do whatever I want and not have to worry about needing to wait for other people to be able to join me. I can entertain myself with no problem, no matter where I am, and I relish exploring things solo. I won’t lie and say that loneliness doesn’t creep in. In many respects I’m an incredibly lonely person. Sometimes I get sick of being alone all the time. Sometimes I find myself talking to myself out loud. Sometimes I just pour my thoughts into social media because they have absolutely nowhere else to go. I don’t have anyone waiting to hear what I have to say, but I could probably seek them out. There’s a manager at The Job who has the worst attitude. She’s bitter and angry all the time. Sometimes I can understand where she is coming from with the job that she has, but in others I can’t accept it. There’s no reason to be horrible to people, and it’s never too late to get out. I know that I’m not going to be working there for the rest of my life, and when I look around and see people that are, I’m befuddled. Hardly the point. What I mean is that the younger employees give the older ones a pass because they’re “old and alone and no one ever loved them”. Well… that’s no excuse. I’m probably going to be old and alone and I have no plans to be bitter about it. I’m surrounded by people I love, and I’m happy for that, but there’s a balance, because all those people have other people and I have myself. A lot of times I’m glad for that.
Growing up I went to summer camp every year, and worked there for a good many years after. Living in that sort of tight knit community for two months lets you get to know people better than if you’d known them for years. It’s an amazing experience, and one you should recreate somehow someday. But you literally I eating, sleeping, playing, showering, and relaxing with the same people, everyday, for around two months. At that point it doesn’t even matter how well I love them, I need a break. When I was a camper I’d wake up early just so I could shower in peace. When I got older I’d sneak off places just to read for an hour or two without disturbance. I loved living with such a close group for that time, but I would always crave a little alone time.
I couldn’t wait to live alone. To have an apartment all to myself. Dictate when I went and came home. Didn’t have to mention it to anyone. No “Hey, I’m craving a Junior Bacon Cheeseburger, wanna go to Wendy’s?” I couldn’t wait until the dishes in the sink were only mine and I had no one else to blame if I was out of milk or hadn’t done the vacuuming in awhile. My friends joke sometimes that if I’m ever to get married we’ll have to have separate houses with a little bridge in between them. I panic sometimes, imagining combining my book collections with anyone else’s. I think of that scene in Annie Hall where they’re separating them again and can’t figure out whose is whose. That freaks me out. It doesn’t seem like handing over books should be as terrifying as handing over emotions, but somehow it sort of is. The idea that someone somewhere could be walking around with my dog-eared copy of A Prayer for Owen Meany causes my pulse to quicken. I’ve come to the conclusion, at the very least, that I’d have to have some sort of room. Or piece of some sort of room. Some space to call my own and then maybe it would work out.
I go to the movies by myself more often than I go with other people. I see a lot of movies. I used to see a lot more than I do now, but I used to work at a movie theatre and see them for free. I still see an awful lot of them. Some terrible, some scary, some exciting, a little bit of everything. I can’t expect people to want to see everything that I want to. So I don’t. I go alone. It’s not exactly, in my opinion, a weird thing. I mean, movies aren’t really conductive to conversation anyway. You sit in the dark staring at a flickering screen for a little while and then leave. And, if you’re talking during the film… well, I wouldn’t want to be hanging out with you anyway. Sometimes, if I have paid full price especially, I will stick around for a double feature. This usually consists of me reading a book in the bathroom for a few minutes so I can pop back in undetected. I couldn’t do this with a friend.
That’s not to say I don’t like going to movies with friends. I love it. I will pretty much see anything if people are asking me to go. I’ll see films I’ve already seen before, ones I have no interest in, pretty much anything. Movie going can be a shared experience, and it’s good that way, but there’s nothing weird to me about going alone. It’s just not feasible to think someone’s going to want to see the exact same things as you.
This also applies to shopping. Shopping can be a social experience, but I’ve found that when shopping with other people I tend not to get a lot of shopping done. I talk, I joke, I have coffee, but I usually hem and haw over the top too long to decide to buy it. Only to return, alone, a few days later when I’ve come up with eighteen different outfits I can make out of that top. I get more done alone. It’s probably because I’m thinking differently. I’m not trying to impress anyone, I’m not judging everything. I’m just trying to put together different ensembles in my head, and sometimes trying to see what I can make out of what. I like it this way, it’s just me.
I went to Europe alone. Sometimes I think that I might have enjoyed it more if I had someone with me the whole time. It would have alleviated loneliness and provided companionship. I would have had someone to talk to, even when I was in a country where hardly anyone spoke English. I wouldn’t have been so scared when I started out. But, at the same time, no. I got to do what I wanted to do. Whatever I looked up in the guidebook that interested me I could do, no convincing needed, no questions asked. I think, if I were to travel with someone else for this period of time it would have to be someone I was on the same wavelength with. I traveled cross country with my best friend, K when I was twenty and we hardly got into one single fight. We respected what mattered to the other and figured out directions together. I couldn’t have gone on a driving trip alone, but Europe was different. It wasn’t difficult meeting people there, staying primarily in hostels. Everyone was in the same situation I was in; it wasn’t hard to make single serving friends. I wont lie and say that I wasn’t lonely at times, but it never lasted long, there was always someone new to meet just around the bend. The main reason I decided to do this, however, was that it was simply at matter of possibility. I was doing a brief study abroad in London, ten days long, with a group from school. Afterwards everyone was heading straight home to Columbus, but I wasn’t convinced I should. I had time and the means to explore a bit. There wasn’t anyone I knew that had both those things. It was a matter of go or don’t go. I could have let my fear take hold, but I didn’t, and I had an unforgettable experience.
Pretty much the only thing I don’t like doing alone is going to sit down restaurants where a waitress takes your order. Oh, I’ve done it on several occasions and will certainly do it again in my lifetime but it always leads to uncomfortable situations. I’m a book reader, you see, I bring books with me pretty much wherever I go. For some reason sometimes this really bugs people, and certainly dictates the fact that I generally tote a bag that’s meant for diapers, but I will never stop. Usually I don’t read them, but I don’t ever want to be caught in the sort of situation where I wish I had a book and I don’t. I don’t like boredom. So, going to a restaurant alone is not so horrible, as I am never really alone. But, it always leads to uncomfortable situations. Take, for example, an issue I had in Dublin where I went to an Italian restaurant. It was a small place, tucked somewhere off O’Connell Street, wasn’t too crowded; the sort of places you just sort of pick when there’s about five hundred restaurants on the same block. I entered the place, just wanting a seat for awhile, and a plate of Spag Boul only to be greeted with “Hello how many?” “Just one.” “Only one?” “Yep, just me.” “Are you sure?” “…Yes.” “You have no friends, no boyfriend?” “………. Just. Me.” They stood there for a moment while I shifted my weight, unsure if they were even going to seat me at all when they finally took me to a dark corner. So I wouldn’t mar their appearance with my glaring aloneness, obviously. Seriously, the place wasn’t even posh. And of course the main question you should be taking from this is why the hell I was at an Italian place in Dublin in the first place. I spent the rest of the trip living off greasy fish at chippies.
I clearly hadn’t learned my lesson though since I tried the restaurant thing again in Brussels. Though, this was less my choice than my necessity. When I arrived in Brussels I had absolutely no idea where I was going. I got off the train at the North Station (Central would have been a better plan, apparently), and twisted my way through the Belgian equivalent of the ghetto [read: Red Light District] until I finally found the Hotel Sabina. I was starving and tired, and after a shower and declining my fifth invite for drinks by the persistent rat-faced bell clerk I really just needed something to eat. With no Pret A Manger, sandwich kiosks, or even McDonalds in sight I ended up at a Chinese restaurant. Walking in I had few illusions that the staff would speak English, they were clearly Chinese and they lived in a country with three national languages. I was wrong, they spoke English. Oh boy did they speak English. Apparently they were so sorry for me, eating alone, that they felt the need to crowd around my table and talk to me the entire time. Don’t get me wrong, they were very nice, but I really just wanted to get back to my book.
Bars are the same. But I wont do them alone. If I really feel the need to drink I can drink at home, but going to a bar by myself is a no go. Maye it’d be conductive to meeting people, but I just don’t think I could do it. In fact, I am sure I couldn’t. Once I went to the wrong bar to wait for my friends and by the time they found me I was practically catatonic out of anxiety. I don’t know why this is, but it’s the one thing I absolutely need people for. Besides, I couldn’t be the flirty, cocktail purchasing girl meeting all sorts of people. I’m a jeans and hoodies type of girl, and I’m shy. I’d be the loner at the end of the bar hardly looking up from her vodka tonic.
There are a million and one things that people can do by themselves, and it always surprises me when people talk about not doing something because someone they’re with doesn’t want to do the same thing. Other people are amazing; they can teach you so many different things and inspire you in so many ways. But other people are not always there, and I’ve never had a problem with that. Sometimes I even inspire myself.