On Friday, I went to a bar by myself. The long and short of it is that I got stood up. Instead of going home, I stayed – alone.
Being alone is a very curious thing, especially for an introvert like me. I find it hard to talk to new people.
I’ve always considered solitude to be one of the most elegant things ever – I come from a family of seven so for me being alone was like a holiday.
Taking yourself out to see a play, a movie, or eating at a restaurant all alone. Watching people, having a moment of inner calm, doing exactly what you want without checking in with anyone else, not having to talk, talk, talk all the time…
Savouring the moment, all that.
However, I must say my first few times out alone were all super awkward.
My first times going to see a movie alone when none of my friends or family shared my taste for certain films. I started going by myself begrudgingly, and feeling so weird when I’d sit down alone in the dark, absolutely sure people around me were saying: “Poor thing! She has no friends!!! Poor, poor girl!” – but after a few times going alone, not only did I stop being embarrassed, I totally stopped thinking about what other people might think – I even had my own little rituals, and I loved nothing more than going for a nice long walk after the movie to reflect and gather my thoughts.
The first times I went out to eat alone were the same, I didn’t feel super confident. I remember being absolutely incapable of going without a book or laptop to hide behind. And that was lunch. I would never have dared go to dinner alone. When travelling, it was better to die in room service mode than go down to eat dinner at the restaurant like a civilised person.
Slowly but surely, after lots of depressing room service, I eventually built up my confidence. I remember the first time I did it abroad. I was in Miami and it was too much of a beautiful day to be stuck in my room all day but I knew I didn’t want to leave the hotel. So I plucked up the courage to go downstairs and eat in one of their restaurants. The waiter treated me so nicely, and so I went back again the next day. He then knew me by name.
Today, I’m perfectly capable of taking myself out to dinner: I walk into the restaurant, ask for a table, order a drink, and appreciate each moment without even feeling weird or hiding behind a book or my phone. I love it.
When, like me, you’ve been conditioned to think that life can only happen when you’re with others, solitude can seem a little bit like a black hole at first.
I remember my first time being truly alone, my first week in my flat all alone in an area where I didn’t know anyone. I was terrified. I didn’t know what to do with myself, especially in the evenings. I started out watching TV a lot or spending my life online. Way too much. Then, once I was sick of little screens, I started to really lose it, lose it and cry. Then, out of boredom, I picked up a pen and…started to write. I wrote the first piece I’d ever been really proud of (didn’t post it of course), and that was kind of the start to…my life and probably this blog, to be honest.
The black hole slowly transformed into a delicious place. I was finally able to start discovering myself. But let’s get back to the bar on Friday, because being alone at a bar, that was really a first for me.
I left my coat at the cloakroom and went looking for the bar, basically, so I’d have some kind of goal. I had no idea what I was going to do. I knew I needed to find the spot where it wasn’t obvious I came alone, but I also kind of wanted to check out the scene and experience the “alone at a bar” thing first. It was a big venue, with lots of little hideaways, different corners and places to explore.
Here are a few flashbacks I remember:
Summary: It’s easy to go to a bar alone…maybe not fun but easy, and it gets easier as the night goes on. Even though there are awkward moments, the really nice thing about it is suddenly you’re totally open to the unknown, and you end up meeting people you would never have met if you stayed in your friend group.
I really liked it.
And I think what I liked most of all, more than the delicious solitude this time, was the feeling of being bold and feeling free. It can even end up becoming addictive. Everyone who likes being alone will probably tell you: it all started by just taking myself out for coffee!
I’m not quite ready to go on holiday alone but now, whenever I can, I try to plan entire days alone. All it takes is for Suli to be travelling for work, and it’s easy to do.
The next day after a bit of solitude, I’m often eager to reconnect with my friends, my family, my team. And I probably have a lot more to give…! This is exactly what I did and I have the best weekend ever!
What about you? What’s your approach to solitude?
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