Today I want to talk about something different – something that is deeply personal to me. Maybe it relates to you as well.
I used to hate being alone. I used to spread my introverted self thin, and fill my evenings and weekends with activities, because I thought I needed to be with people. It seriously drained me.
Now, my fiancé is on the other side of the country (and when we are talking about Canada, this is a long distance.) And I am living in a smaller city away from my family and 71.4% of my closest friends. Being an introvert, who is now happy about being an introvert, I spend a lot of time alone.
There is a stigma to being alone. On social media, we see pictures of people having fun with friends, and we feel that there is something wrong with being alone, that it’s not fun, that you can’t possibly be happy. When we see a group of people chatting and laughing on the street, we assume that they are having fun and that they are happy. When we see someone eating alone at a restaurant, we wonder if they are bored or lonely.
I want to challenge that. I want to challenge the idea that being with people makes us happy, and that being alone is lonely. I want to sell you the idea that being alone is absolutely fine.
Better alone than with bad company. You know those friends who you love to bits and pieces, who make you laugh and inspire you, who leave you feeling happy and fulfilled? These are the people who are worth our time. And then you know those other people, maybe even people we call “friends”, who we don’t connect with or relate to, who leave us feeling drained, who, even worse, hurts us? These people we are better without.
Coming out of college and moving to London to start a new job, I feared living on my own. At the same time, I didn’t have any close friends in London. So, I moved in with a girl who I thought was my “friend”, who I knew from the outset that we had little in common with. We did not get along, our personalities clashed, and, needless to say, the year was disastrous.
Now, I am living on my own for the first time, and I love every, single, minute of it.
Being alone is not the same as being lonely. We can be alone and happy. We can be surrounded by people while feeling desperately alone.
Being alone inspires creativity. Are you a creative person? Creativity doesn’t have to relate to art. Maybe you like writing, or dance, or music, or drama. Maybe you like to brainstorm solutions for real-world problems. Maybe you just like to imagine how the world can be a better place.
I think that being alone gives us the headspace to think of new ideas, without the influence of other people and the outside world. As a blogger and writer, I find that my best ideas pop out when I’m least expecting it, usually when I am walking, or driving, or just on the verge of sleep.
Or maybe you are different from me. Do your best ideas come when you are alone? Or when you are with people?
Being alone gives you the freedom to try something new. One thing I’ve learned in my twenty-six years of living is that we don’t have to ask permission. Sure, there are consequences to our actions. If we break a law, likely we will end up behind bars. If we jump from a cliff without a harness, likely we will end up on the operating table. And we will likely hear from our friends and families about it. But, my point is, if it is safe and legal and something that we are interested in, why not? We don’t need permission from anybody.
I had a lot of fun spending time with my friends. At the same time, I missed opportunities to do things I wanted to do, because I always ended up doing what my friends wanted to do. Now, I still ask my friends to join me in my adventures, because it’s nice to have company. But whether or not people come with me, I am going to do it anyway.
And the cool thing is: We meet a lot of cool people along the way. There is something about being alone which opens us up to meeting new people. Maybe, when we are outside of our social bubble, we are more willing to start a conversation with a stranger. Or strangers are more willing to start a conversation with someone who is not already preoccupied.
I went to my pole dancing class terribly shy and nervous, and now I met a bunch of cool gals who inspire me to try my best everyday. I also started blogging with one sad follower (myself), and now I have lots more (you guys are truly amazing).
If I had spent all that time with friends, maybe it would be fun. But would I have learned to pole dance, met awesome blogging pals, read books that speak to my heart, traveled around the world, and have so many interesting stories to tell? I don’t think so.