People are getting more comfortable with the idea of choosing to be alone – choosing a good book, watching a good show, doing something independent of company - but there’s still this huge taboo, at least in my circle of friends here, of attending events alone. It’s not that it harms anyone, but there’s judgment that comes along with it.
“I went to insert event/gallery/museum/attraction here.”
“Who’d you go with?”
“I just went by myself.”
They wonder if you have no friends, they wonder if you got in a fight with your usual friends, and they wonder why. They can’t imagine why. To the people who question why one would choose to do anything alone when the same thing can be done with friends, well, sometimes I really like moving at my own pace. (Though to be honest, if company’s available, I’ll almost always choose company. I just like having the option.)
There’s this beautiful freedom of solidarity that you get when you get comfortable with doing things on your own. To enjoy life and its opportunities, to not deny yourself an outing and to opt to meet people when you get there, instead of staying at home because you “have no one to go with.” Don’t get me wrong, private me time is great: I love reading a good book, reading blogs, laying on my mat, dancing in my room, and singing out loud off-key. However, I also love experiencing new things that are typically “social” activities. I love clicking with a new person and having someone else assume we must’ve known each other forever because of the observed ease of conversation, the natural chemistry. That it exists between people that could’ve been strangers? Love it.
It’s a quiet independence that you have to learn. I think first you have to learn to be okay studying alone, sitting in the presence of groups and being by yourself. Don’t be linked to someone on the phone or computer, but really be alone. Embrace that moment and be okay with it. Or if you’re out of school, then learn to be okay with shopping alone. Walk through the mall or in front of window displays by yourself. Don’t hurry through the stores to avoid someone “catching you” by yourself; let yourself be seen. Focus on what you’re there to do, not the fact that you’re not flanked by friends. Look for the pieces that you want. It’s wonderful to not feel obliged to slow down for anyone, to not wait for someone else to exit the changing rooms, nor enter places you’d rather skip. Enjoy that control of every choice.
Then take it further. You have to hear about an event, something you’ve always wanted to do, someone you’ve always wanted to see, or anything that you have a semblance of passion for. When your friends don’t share the same interest or your schedules don’t align, let yourself buy tickets and make plans to go anyway. Go. Realize you enjoy it. You’re capable of getting happiness from what the attraction provides. It’s not necessary to bring people with you in order for you to enjoy yourself. Realize this.
Finally, learn to start conversations. This isn’t about picking up strangers or making lifelong friends. This is about in-the-moment connections. This is about creating company. If you’re at an event, chances are that other people are there because they share at least one interest with you. Talk to them. Comment on the venue, the atmosphere, what you’re excited about. If you’re excited about something that they’re excited about, someone will keep talking. Remember to respect boundaries though and don’t interrupt someone’s conversation or barge into another. There are always people slightly isolated, body angled away from the group, head tilted to the door, eyes constantly searching for another face. These are the people you can talk to. These are the people that are craving conversation with someone new. They want somewhere new to belong.
So be okay with being alone. Don’t avoid going out just because you have nobody to go with. Go out because you want to and because you have to confidence to be places independently.
Be okay with enjoying things by yourself.