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.
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!