Alone/Lonely: it’s just semantics

This isn’t a post about being single. Well, the intention is not to talk about single-girl experiences in that sort of chipper, “girl-power” sort of way. I’m talking about being “alone” in a more general sense. Travelling alone, eating alone, living alone, being comfortable being on you own.

Social media can fool us into believing we’re never really alone: we can log into any number of portals and catch up with our friends, see what they’re up to, like their photographs and share their opinions. But that’s a dangerous path because we begin to measure our own success against others, and when we see what other people are doing, we start to wonder if we’re good enough. And the concept of “good enough” should only ever be judged by you. If you hold your own values and become familiar with your own sense of self, ultimately you’ll be a finer person for it.

When you make new friends, or meet someone you fancy the look of, it’s these sorts of things you learn, when you’re spending time by yourself, that you’ll bring to the table. You’ll be self-assured, and confident, and you’ll seek out people with whom you’ll really get along with. And until you’re really willing to try it (the being OK by yourself thing), you could be missing out on experiences, or opportunities, giving into the fear that stops you making the most out of things.

In a city where up until 6 months ago I had a tight-knit circle of friends, I’ve had to learn to be vastly independent. The fantastic advantage of student life is that you are introduced to a whole host of people with whom you form fast bonds and become accustomed to seeing on a regular basis, but its transient nature means you can’t all stay together in that university bubble. People move on, and I can’t control that, I wouldn’t want to. I won’t resent my friends for going on to fulfill their dreams, but I won’t let it stop me either. In between this group of friends and the next (I’m optimistic – Edinburgh’s full of cool, arty people), I need to make the most of my time. Because if I’m inactive, or allow the “alone-ness” to confine me to my flat, ultimately I’m going to be worse off for it. Being in my flat can feel safe, when I’m feeling vulnerable or lonely, but it perpetuates these feelings too. And in my case, this sudden state of “alone-ness” has forced me to confront my little bothersome anxieties and decide to make the most of it.

Travelling around the USA on my own for 7 weeks was the first step. I was terrified, truly and totally I-am-going-to-cancel-my-flight-and-hide-under-my-duvet scared. And every time I moved on from the hostel I’d grown accustomed to in one city, or the friends I’d made whilst exploring, that fear would return. But every time I found myself alone I stopped to take a breath, and I thought about the places I’d see if I moved on, and I pushed myself to do it. It didn’t really get any easier, each new step was difficult, but in every place I went, I made a new friend. And here’s the thing: being alone, being without LitSoc or the library, taught me that I am resourceful, and kinda brave, in an internally-bricking-it sort of way, and that I’m pretty good at making friends. And I learnt that I’m not as terrible at reading maps as I thought, because being alone forced me to figure these things out for myself. Ultimately, I became comfortable with the idea of being alone.

I had to ask a nice stranger to take this of me: walking the length of the Golden Gate Bridge - alone!
I had to ask a nice stranger to take this of me: walking the length of the Golden Gate Bridge – alone!

And whilst I’m still working on the long term friends in Edinburgh, I’ve learnt that just because I don’t always have someone to accompany me, doesn’t mean I’m not going to do something I want to do. I attend gigs, go to the cinema, and have even been known to eat out on my own (that’s the truly terrifying one – but with each flaky mouthful of B’stilla, I felt a little less self-conscious).

This is only my personal experience of “alone-ness”, and I’d really be interested to hear yours. Perhaps you prefer alone-time inside, with a book, or learning to play an instrument, or speak another language… There are so many things I want to try!

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5 thoughts on “Alone/Lonely: it’s just semantics

  1. Great blog post. I decided to give up dating for Lent. It’s been over a month and already I feel so much better. There are those moments when I feel scared and I get a case of FOMO. Then I think about all the craziness I had to deal with when being a part of bad relationships–platonic or otherwise. And I realized I’m tired. Tired of a lot of things. So, now it’s nice to be alone, chill, just me and my thoughts. Knowing I don’t have to prove myself to anyone and I can just BE…exploring myself and my world…opening myself to new opportunities as well. Even when I feel alone, I have faith that everything I need…I already have.

    Thanks for sharing!

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    1. Thanks, ZeroToStars! I definitely struggled with that new-to-singleness state as well, I’d never been single longer than a few months, and now it’s been 2 years. I think being on your own gives you so much more respect for yourself and you’re much less likely to get into a bad relationships because you’re more in touch with what you need and what you want. And it gives you so much time for adventure! 🙂

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  2. Lately, I’ve found that I’ve been aching for the type of company I had in Edinburgh as well. In truth, I think the lonely feeling is a part of city life as well. Everyone feels a part of it and yet completely removed especially when we shuffle from one safety net to the next (work or home). It’s the in between that really throws me for a loop!

    On that note, my all time favorite activity is to go to the cinema sans friends. I mean, I’m not suppose to chat during the film right? (The answer is no, you shouldn’t speak!)

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    1. I do think you’re right, or certainly living in a city can highlight the “lonely” feeling because we see thousands of people every day but we don’t necessarily connect with them. I think one of the weirdest/most difficult things to do in your OWN city is to strike up a conversation with a stranger, and maybe even form a friendship. I mean, it’s happened to me in the past, someone from a bar I frequent, or even a girl I met when we were both viewing the same flat, but it’s not predictable, and it’s pretty difficult to gauge how to go about doing it.

      Also I really wish I could emphasise how important my prior safety nets are – having you on the other end of Facetime, or Tom on the phone – it really makes a difference. Because if I have a lousy day I know I’ve got people to turn to. I’m really lucky.

      And cinema sans friends is by far the easiest activity to try alone! You’re right, having someone there can even be a hindrance :p bet you wish you hadn’t taken me to see Paranormal Activity for instance…

      LOVE YOU. ❤

      Like

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