Featured Image: Classic Spongebob, Episode 129 where Squidward falls into some alternate dimension and is utterly and completely… alone.
I’ve given much thought about being alone recently. Not just because of the pandemic, though it has been eye-opening to see what alone time can do for the soul, but because next month I’ll be five years single. When I think about it being five years since I’ve been in a committed relationship, I get a little concerned that I’ve burned through a lot of time (and a lot of men) without having found someone. But then I remember why I’m single — I just like being alone. I’m not going to “settle” when I’m perfectly happy being alone.
Doing things alone comes with a lot of freedom. I’m free to do anything I choose at any time; I’m free to stray off the path to sniff a flower for as long as I want because there’s no one waiting for me. Freedom is particularly luxurious to me after years of being in an abusive relationship where everything I did was under intense scrutiny and was often controlled completely. I couldn’t be spontaneous. I couldn’t stop answering my phone and wander off when I wanted. My first taste of freedom after I broke up with him was so delicious that I started saying “yes” to everything (that was before I realized that saying “no” to things was equally as freeing).
Last year, after yet another failed dating excursion, I went and saw a movie by myself. I had a free movie coupon and had been waiting for the opportunity to take a guy out with me, but the coupon was set to expire and I had yet to find anyone. That’s when I realized: why the hell would I give up a free movie because I couldn’t find a date? So I went alone. And it was lovely. I didn’t even have to share the snacks I had smuggled in.
I’ve since done a lot of things alone. I’ve taken solo vacations, gone to the bar, gone out to eat, gone for long introspective walks. With all that time spent alone, I had time to think and to make my own decisions without anyone interfering. I thought about my goals and aspirations. I got to know myself.
That is the best part of being alone: getting to know yourself. When you’re alone you can be your absolute self, and you’ll start to recognize that person more easily the longer you’re alone. You might even like that person more.
Because when you’re with someone, you’re constantly trying to be the person they want you to be or the person you want to be for them. And doing anything for yourself feels taboo. A relationship tends to require sharing everything from food to thoughts, from phone passwords to every second of your time. And when you do things alone or keep things to yourself, it’s thought of as selfish or sneaky. There are, of course, healthy relationships out there where personal space and growth is encouraged, but I haven’t really encountered many. There’s always someone settling or compromising.
My mom had recently called me out on my propensity to give up on new guys rather quickly (this time was after the first date). I was taken aback quite a bit. Why would I continue to date someone I didn’t like just for the chance that maybe I’ll like them later? This person isn’t going to change (and I wouldn’t force them to) and I’m not going to lower my standards.
It is unfortunate that relationships are drilled into our brains as the be-all-end-all of happiness. How the hell can you be in a relationship if you’ve never been alone? If you’ve never gotten to know yourself or become a complete person? How do you know if you actually want to be in a relationship or if something inside you is just terrified of being alone? There is nothing inherently wrong with not being in a relationship, even if the world (or your biology) makes you feel like there is (newsflash the world is overpopulated anyway).
This isn’t even just about relationships, either. I mean really do things alone; It feels amazing. You feel accomplished. You feel rejuvenated. Your brain will fire in all new directions. Spending time by yourself can make you more creative and even spiritual. It hands you the freedom to choose to do whatever your heart desires without external influence.
I mean it; Put on your favorite shirt and take yourself on a date. Go to a bar alone. Go out to eat at a sit-down restaurant alone. Go to a museum alone. Go for a long walk in the woods alone (maybe tell someone first). Even have really good sex with yourself after your date (tends to be better that way anyway, am I right?). Take up the whole bed and all the pillows and blankets when you go to sleep, too.
If you can’t hang out with yourself, why would anyone else want to? If you feel that you are incomplete or broken, why would you force someone to complete you or fix you? You don’t have to love yourself for someone to love you, but you should know yourself and what you want. Making the choice to be alone is a mindset that can help you get over the ingrained idea that solitude = loneliness and that loneliness = no one will ever love me and I’m going to die alone.
All this is not to say that you should pull a Thoreau or become a permanent hermit; I just want to make the point that being alone is not only OK, but it’s beneficial.
(Comedy) Daniel Sloss’s fantastic ‘Jigsaw’ metaphor can be found on his Netflix special “Daniel Sloss Live Shows” or you can read the transcript (but his accent is worth the watch)
(Podcast) Sloss’s interview with Modern Wisdom
(Scholarly Article) Solitude: An Exploration of Benefits of Being Alone by Christopher R. Long and James R. Averill