We don’t get a lot of time to shut out the world completely these days, do we? We stumble, bleary-eyed, to work or school after scarfing down a questionable breakfast, spend the day sitting with or talking to people, and often enough, social plans run a road straight through our evenings. We all crave social contact but we need personal time to recharge and rejuvenate. Yet, there are all these things we are averse to doing alone, because they seem socially and culturally awkward. Or we fear it makes us look pathetic. But I think there are a few things that are worth doing alone once, for the experience and for the unexpected ways we learn and grow from them. I wouldn’t call any of these profound – but perhaps they are not effortless.
Go see a movie alone. I know some people do this, but most tend to rally up at least one other person to go with. Admittedly, I’ve loved going to the movie for years, but I’ve only ever gone alone once. I don’t think it’s an opportunity you have to look particularly hard for: you’re bound to want to see some flick one day that no one around you does. So just go. Theaters aren’t great for socializing anyway, and watching a film is a perfect solitary activity. (We all do it at home; are we just afraid to look lame in public?) When I went by myself, I loved it. I felt oddly independent, and it forced me to get over wondering what the strangers nearby thought of me (which was probably nothing).
Spend a birthday alone. Not like hide-in-a-mountain-cave sort of alone, but don’t throw any kind of celebration. Try to free up your evening and just spend time reflecting on your year. I think it’s a humbling experience, because even if we don’t like to puff it up, we’re used to a culture of big cakes and party hats, and getting a pass on selfishness for one day. Spending your “special day” alone can be a bit of a jarring but necessary reminder that the Earth will keep spinning even without your big bash. No red alerts will go off.
Travel alone. I think this one, more than the others, can give us a dose of real loneliness. Not necessarily in a bad way. Maybe in a semi-scary but thrilling way, when you step onto a plane alone and step off in an unfamiliar city where no one is waiting for you. It magnifies your senses. When we travel with others, we’re usually wrapped up in each other’s conversations and concerns. But by ourselves, we perceive so much more. We get snatches of conversations, pieces of other people’s lives. The smell of Auntie Anne’s. The flickering lights of planes in descent, mingling with the stars. The world is suddenly so big, and we are so small.
Being alone, doing things alone, humbles us. It reminds us that the world will go on just fine without us, and in these few hours (or days or weeks), no one really needs us. It’s good for our souls.
Oh, and one more thought. Dance to Taylor Swift alone. Around your kitchen in the refrigerator light. But I bet you all do that already.