As I’ve gotten older I have realized the importance of time alone. Time to yourself is precious. Whether you are single or have a family, studying or employed, there are things tugging at us every day – stresses and commitments, responsibilities that we must live up to and items we need to check off of that ever long to do list. That’s life. However, some alone time can be a good thing, and I don’t just mean sitting around with a good book, though that’s a great use of time in my opinion, I mean going out and doing things that you want to do, by yourself.
It wasn’t always something I was comfortable doing. I realize there are those of you out there that were comfortable taking off and traveling solo from the get go, and you have all my admiration. But I think the vast majority of us have reservations about the idea of being alone.
Thinking about it, I’ve come to realize that from a young age we are encouraged to do things as part of a group – study groups, sports teams, musical ensembles (yes I was/am a choir nerd) are all things you do with others. When I went to university it was seldom I was alone – I lived with other people, was in class with a hundred other students, ate in a cafeteria with the same people and went to the bar with several friends and their friends. We even got together in a group to watch Friends and Survivor on Thursday nights. Television wasn’t even a solo activity!
However that most social of times, the university experience for me, came to an end in my mid-twenties, and a year later I was living out on my own, just me, for the very first time. For an introvert like myself, I was okay with the quiet solitude. I still had a group of friends that I could count on to do social things and new work colleagues to spend my day with.
As I have gotten older that has changed. Now in my thirties, the vast majority of my friends have either moved out of the city, gotten married, had children, or a combination of these. That’s not to say that they still can’t have fun, of course they can, but the spontaneous social nature of your twenties becomes a thing of the past. Everyone’s schedules are busier these days – with work and family commitments, socializing takes planning. There are few single friends remaining in my contact list for last minute dinners, drinks or movies. But to go out and do the things I wanted to do I was faced with a dilemma – either make new single, city-bound friends (a subject for a whole other article!) or learn to go out and do things on my own.
There is, for some reason, that social stigma that exists when we think of doing some activities alone. We seem to feel sorry for those sitting on their own in a restaurant or bar when they may have any number of reasons for being alone, not the least of which is perhaps they are choosing to be there. It doesn’t mean they are “losers”, it doesn’t mean they don’t’ have friends. However, because of this stigma, it took a large boost in self-confidence for me to feel comfortable doing things alone. I started in the one place I felt most comfortable: the movie theater.
If you are like me and need a bit of encouragement to get out there, the movies is a great place to start. People are paying attention to the movie, not to you. Trust me. For a film buff like myself, I couldn’t drag many of my friends to the small independent films I wanted to see. When you go solo you can see whatever you want, and you don’t have to share your popcorn either! I started to look forward to these afternoons where I had the freedom to strike out on my own and do exactly what I wanted. They started with the movies, but have since branched out to museums, theatres, bars and the occasional restaurant. If I feel like stopping at a certain shop along the way or taking a detour to walk down a different street of downtown it doesn’t matter. It’s my timetable and what I feel at that very moment.
There are days when my introvert nature takes over and I do curl up to watch Netflix or read a book. There is never anything wrong with that. But my life in my 30s has evolved from a series of group events to a lovely balance that includes my family, my partner, my friends and myself. I plan time with my friends and their families and spend time with their children. However on days with sudden free time I’m also happy to be spontaneous and head to the movies, or go write in a coffee shop. I also never feel the need to apologize for wanting to spend that time alone.
Being an independent wanderer means you choose your own adventure. It opens a lot of doors to places you may not have been or had time to go, you meet people with whom you may not have spoken. I no longer cringe at the thought of wandering into a pub and ordering myself a glass of wine and just sitting alone. A funny thing happens when you start doing things on your own – your confidence and feeling of self-worth blossoms. I feel your thirties are exactly the time to welcome that. The more you learn to embrace the opportunities that surround you, the richer your life becomes. Sometimes it’s up to you and you alone to make those opportunities happen.
Written by Hillary Butler