Learning to be Alone. NOT Lonely

I am a strange kind of person.  I am pretty social when I am around people.  I like making people laugh and being with people but I also like being alone.  I should change that.  I need to be alone sometimes.  I don’t like being around people constantly and if I’m around a group for too long I will often do things like go on a walk with my dog.  Large groups of people freak me out.  Even people that I know really really well like all of my family during thanksgiving and Christmas. (I come from a big Italian family where people are constantly coming and going but typically, we are looking at 30-50 during Christmas along with any of their friends or people that didn’t have places to go.  Every single one has to be greeted and hugged in that way that kind of feels like a boney trap.  God bless them they are all sweet as hell but also sound like the cast of the sopranos…just already drunk from the last party and 85.)

These are situations that I think might be overwhelming for everyone if they aren’t used to it but most of all for people that aren’t exactly fond of being touched but also people that need alone time. 

For so much of my life I thought that there was something wrong with me that I needed time to myself. That when I was little and at a sleep over I kind of needed to go home.  Not because I was scared or didn’t like my friends but because I just….needed a minute.

A lot of this has to do with the fact that my mother is an extrovert.  She like to have people over and go on week long girl scout camping trips where no one has their own time or personal space and you just can’t get away.  I do not remember a specific incident of people told that I needed to be more social but I definitely was told that. 

I think a lot of people are and I do think that it is a thing that is particularly expected of little girls.  We are supposed to want to have all of our friends over, do sleep overs, cuddle with our friends.  When we are older I supposed this is supposed to translate into wanting to hold big parties and….I don’t know keep house and be around our kids? 

I was never like this and that meant trouble…one of my many personality traits that seemed to terrify my parents for me.  There were a lot and I’m pretty sure all parents worry for their kids when they don’t adhere to social norms.  But then again from the nonfiction and research I’ve read about a lot of things, from hobbies to linguistics, all kids ae really, really fucking weird because they don’t know what they are supposed to do or be. 

Even in college I didn’t really like parties.  When people now tell me “Oh I was like that in my 20’s/ in college”  I can never really say that.  Sweaty night clubs, twelve dollar drinks and then having to drive home at two in the morning crowded with other drunk people were always a hard pass for me.  Of course I went once or twice because I wanted to fit in but I always ended up pretty much in my own bed because…other peoples beds and showers just never felt right. 

The thing that I learned as I got older is that I’m not weird.  Its not weird like my parents thought to need space.  Its part of being an introvert, which they should have known because my father is definitely an introvert- that’s not even getting into the fact that this was probably because its okay for a man to take time for himself but when a woman does it shes being dramatic and should be setting up the next cocktail party or whatever. 

Introverts need time to recharge, even if they appear social.  Social interactions can make us tired and we just need a few minutes or some solitary activity to recenter ourselves so that we aren’t over whelmed.  I honestly didn’t start putting this together as a solid intention until I was in my 30’s, even though it started before that with unconscious decisions that would give me some alone time.  A lot of that night have had to do with the fact that it was mixed with my depression, and I just thought that being alone meant that I was depressed and socially inept.  Of course, that’s ridiculous because before that I was a freaking barista, possibly the most have to be social to rude people that haven’t had caffeine yet job you can have. 

I started realizing it when I started running.  It felt so good not only to run but to run by myself, something that people tell me isn’t safe all the time.  But that alone time in the woods did something for me.  It taught me how to live with my own thoughts and be with them.  It taught me that after I just felt…better.  Even after long runs that could last upward of an hour and a half. I should have been on the ground feeling like shit (Which sometimes obviously I did) but most of the time I felt great, not just from the running but from that time set aside for myself, by myself. 

When my marriage started falling apart was another eye opener for me.  My ex never wanted to come with me to do anything or didn’t have the time or was too tired to go out.  Sometimes I would be able to pray one of my friends from their boyfriends/ husbands but sometimes I couldn’t.  So I started do things by myself.  I started taking myself out on self dates… and it would be great.  Sometimes I would bring a book.  Later I learned not to and just to be comfortable where I was, by myself, not trying to hide by myself and not being embarrassed that no one was with me.  I went to movies by myself and everything else that people might have done as dates, I actually really enjoyed doing on my own.  I often take my dog with me to fairs and farmers markets. 

Here are some of the things that I actually absolutely love doing on my own that you might have felt uncomfortable about doing by yourselves in your younger years- and you might still feel is sad or weird to do now that is totally not. 

Running/ Working out:  This is totally not weird and honestly it makes the work out a lot more effective sometimes.  Running groups and training groups are great and they do make you push yourself but there is something to be said for doing it on your own.  First, you have to be willing to be alone with your own thoughts.  Unlike some other activities where you are watching a movie or reading a book, working out is you and your head (And if you listen to a podcast). Learning how to be comfortable in your own thoughts is ….a task and one that we need to get better about doing. 

Vacations:  I LOVE going on vacation alone.  Some people hate it but a week where I don’t have to be around anyone that I don’t want to at all?  A week where there are zero expectations?!  Can you even imagine?  Its great.  You can recharge in whatever paradise you pick and if you want to meet people, of course you have that option, most of all at a resort.  But you don’t have to. 

Self-dates/ Prep Dates:  I take myself out on Sunday morning for breakfast and it is absolutely one of my favorite things in the world.  I will bring my planner and maybe my tablet, have breakfast at my favorite local spot and set up for the upcoming week and write down everything that I want to do or have to do with no interruptions.  I relax and watch people a little bit, do my journaling, update my pottery log, look at my training schedule for the next week and anything else I feel like doing.  When I first started doing this I did it out the counter since there were a bunch of other people on there own there.  Then as I got more comfortable being by myself and realized no one thought that I was weird for not having a partner with me, I moved to one of the little booths. 

Hobby Classes:  I know so many people that have decided not to try something new because they don’t have anyone that wants to try it with them.  I was defiantly like this when I was in my 20’s.  Things like going to the gym were easy because I knew that there would be lots of people on their own there.  But stuff like dance classes, yoga, pottery or cooking classes?  I was terrified to go by myself, somehow thinking that I was going to be the only single person there.  And you know what?  Sometimes I was.  I felt super self-conscious about it until I just didn’t feel that way anymore.  I don’t let not having a bestie with me or partner with me stop me from doing anything that I want to do anymore.

The Big Red headphones:  I love my red, over ear headphones.  Of course, I like having my earbuds in when I’m running or when I’m at work and I must listen for the phone and for anyone that needs me.  But when I don’t want to be interrupted, there is nothing like my bright red headphones to tell people I am in do not disturb mode.

Fairs & farmers Markets:  I love these because you get to interact with people…people you might not have taken the time to talk to if you went with someone.  One of the farmers at my farmers market and I trade things on Saturday mornings from his farm and my garden or pottery studio.  I know his name now and he knows mine and my dogs.  I probably wouldn’t have gotten to know him nearly as well id I always went with another person. 

Just….be home:  I love just being home.  My room is my sanctuary and I have made it into a place where I can relax, meditate and unwind.  You don’t constantly have to be going out.  In fact its not good for people to constantly be out.  You have to have that space that is just yours, even if you have a partner.  Be home, put a face mask on, watch some brainless TV or something and give yourself time to power up those batteries. 

The thing is this.  We are told that we shouldn’t want to be alone, that we need to find a special someone, that our besties should be with us to the point of codependency.  I have learned that no matter how much you love someone and they love you, doesn’t mean that you will always be together, even with friendships.  The only person who will forever be in your life is yourself and learning how to spend time in your own company is underrated.

Also there is nothing wrong with being an introvert and needing time by yourself.  Even if you live with someone, do not feel bad about saying that you need a night to yourself or time to yourself.  Do not make anyone, regardless of gender think that they are doing something wrong by not wanting to be with friends or social groups all the time. 

Most importantly, learn what you need.  Pay attention to your bodies reactions to large groups of people, enclosed spaces.  Know what you need and do not be afraid to act on it.  This is so important in every single way and in the end you and everyone around you will have more fun when you are fully charged and emotionally available because you have gotten the time that you need. 

One thought on “Learning to be Alone. NOT Lonely

  1. Hi so well written and so me. I could relate so well. Luckily for me my parents too were introverts to some extent, so they could understand me better.
    I have at times come down with fever because of the fear of attending a professional party.
    Thanks for write up.


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