When I was a senior in high school, my dad’s job took our family from Mobile to Montgomery. Thankfully, I was allowed to stay behind and graduate with my class before moving to a new city for the summer.
Yeah, that summer.
That one after your senior year, when new grads try to squeeze in every possible second of togetherness before we all scatter in different directions. I spent that summer in a new city with no friends and no Internet. (Since … you know … it hadn’t been invented yet.)
Now if my life were a summer blockbuster, I’d meet a cute lifeguard at the local pool who would help me discover my untapped telekinetic powers (and burgeoning sexuality), both of which we use to recover a crucial floppy disc with encrypted data (password: Thumper) that leads to the invention of a global system of interconnected computer networks some marketing genius christens “the Internet.”
Instead, I just got a job at Little Caesar’s. And another one at a gym. And one more at a tuxedo shop in the mall. Three jobs and I still couldn’t outrun my aching loneliness and tragic lack of friends. Both of which clung to me more fiercely than the stink of pizza anchovies under my fingernails.
But against all odds, I did make one friend that summer. She wasn’t telekinetic and she didn’t transform from nerd to femme fatale when we straightened her hair and removed her glasses, but she was pretty cool anyway.
I’m talking about myself. You got that, right?
That cruel, cruel summer was when I first learned to be alone. And, shocker, even like it, in reasonable amounts.
In fact, if there’s one essential life skill everyone should have, I would submit that it’s the ability to enjoy your own company. And no, that doesn’t always come naturally. In today’s hyper-connected world, you may only have a nodding acquaintance with your self. (Two words on purpose.)
But how can you know what you – and you alone – are really feeling, wanting, needing, if you never check in with yourself? How will you have the strength to leave a relationship that no longer serves you or distance yourself from toxic friendships if you don’t know how to fly solo? So here are 5 things everyone needs to learn to do alone.
Eat at a restaurant alone.
You can do this! Start small, maybe in a coffee shop. Bring a book or a journal. Try not to bend over your phone the whole time. Daydream. People watch. Savor every bite of your meal.
Go to the movies alone.
This one’s easy. You can’t feel self-conscious in the dark. I used to treat myself to a movie every Saturday and go alone. It was heaven. No one stealing my popcorn, no one asking questions during crucial scenes. I might go see one today, in fact. If movies aren’t your thing, try your favorite form of recreation. I’ve even gone to a skating rink by myself. (That one was weird, I must admit.)
You’ll be so glad you mastered this one. No more excuses when a friend cancels or you just need to sweat out some stress. Make a great playlist, put in your ear buds, rack up some miles or rep it out. You’ll feel stronger mentally and physically.
Now we’re getting more advanced. By traveling alone I don’t mean when mom hands you over to a Southwest flight attendant so you can spend the summer with grandma. I mean planning a trip, telling people where you’re going (crucial) and setting off for a solo trip. This could be a road trip or plane trip. Maybe only an overnighter or a weekend. Start small, be safe and enjoy the silence. Or a good road trip playlist.
This is the master class. I have friends who left their parents’ house, moved in with roommates, lived with a boyfriend, got married and never once experienced the joy of living alone. More than one of those friends either got divorced, broke up with the boyfriend or was left behind by a roommate who got married. That’s why it’s better to intentionally live alone rather than wind up in that situation. Your humble home becomes your fortress of solitude. You can decorate how you like, walk around naked waiting for your sunless tanner to dry, leave the door open while you’re on the toilet so you don’t miss your TV shows, read Harry Potter at 3 in the morning … The possibilities are endless.
From Auntie Venom’s Eighties Audio Files:
What about you? How do you enjoy your own company? Where would you take a road trip? Do you hate it as much as I do when they make the nerdy girl in the movie hotter by straightening her hair? (Looking at you, Anne Hathaway.) Tell me everything.