I love being alone. I am obsessed with being alone. It’s kind of my favorite way to spend my time. I mean, I love hanging out with my friends and my girlfriend, but prolonged interaction can be exhausting, and I need my solo time to recharge after socializing.
I know that a lot of you can’t relate—for lots of people, interaction is energizing, not energy-depleting. If you are one of those people, that’s great! But at some point, maybe even right this second, you may find yourself completely on your own, and when it happens, I want you to enjoy it.
Over the years, I have happily and voluntarily spent vast amounts of time by myself, and by now I am an expert on the subject—a true artiste when it comes to solitary pursuits. Being alone is no big deal! It is part of the human experience! It can actually be really helpful, and even enhance the time you spend with other humans! You can not only get through it, but truly like it!
The first step to being happy alone is to realize that you’re a cool person to hang out with, and that the things you like to do are fun because they’re fun for you. (And really, who else’s opinion counts when you’re alone?)
Getting comfortable with your own company is partly an exercise in figuring out what you actually want to do when no one is asking you to compromise, whether that means sleeping in, watching movies, going on long bike rides in new neighborhoods, or building elaborate machines that fry up breakfast for you. If it makes you happy, it’s an acceptable thing to do when you’re alone. The end.
The next step in learning how to be alone is to practice. You don’t learn all the words to Beyoncé’s “Countdown” well enough to lip-synch to it the first or second time you hear it; most people who are new to hanging out by themselves aren’t instantly masters of that, either. Start small, by taking a long nature walk by yourself (sans iPod!) or going to a coffee shop without any friends (bring a book or a magazine). Then build up to bigger things, like eating at a restaurant (again, reading material is crucial) or a concert without your pals.
The good news about practicing being alone is that there are ENDLESS activities that can be accomplished in the company of one’s own baddest self. Here are some I’d particularly recommend:
• Watching every single movie a director you like has ever made—or reading every book a favorite author has written—in chronological order.
• Repeatedly watching a single cult classic movie, like Mean Girls, Labyrinth, The Craft, or Clueless, until you can flawlessly (and impressively) recite lines from memory.
• Getting sucked into a show (or several) that people reference all the time—like Strangers With Candy, Bob’s Burgers, Twin Peaks, The Simpsons, or Arrested Development—but that you’ve never seen.
• Going to a movie alone. It is so freeing to watch a film and have the space to think your own thoughts about it instead of repeatedly glancing at a friend’s face to see what they think.
• Rereading a book with a character you have a crush on (for me, it’s Brett in The Sun Also Rises) and then spending an alone day emulating her/him. Wear an outfit you think this person would wear, and try doing some of the things they would do, whether that means laughing airily in a store at something the cashier says, arching an eyebrow at someone instead of answering them, or calling everyone “darling” in a breathy voice. You get the idea.
• Deciding on a new karaoke jam and practicing it to perfection, complete with dance moves, so you’ll have it ready to pull it out and astonish people with on a moment’s notice.
• Sitting alone in a café to watch people and eavesdrop on their conversations.
• Going to an art museum and noticing the art you’re drawn to, as well as the art puts you off, and thinking about why. (Visiting a museum alone is the best way to do it, IMHO, because then you don’t have to get dragged through exhibits someone else is excited about; you’re free to head straight to the Impressionist paintings or modern photography or sculpture gardens immediately, no compromises or pathways through medieval sword scabbards required.)
If you are committed to the practice of being alone, you can actually run through this list pretty quickly. So what’s next? It’s time to acquire and maintain an obsessive hobby. Ohhhhh yes. There are so many obsessive hobbies to choose from! Journaling. Blogging or collaging. Photography, sewing, painting, pen-paling, yarn-bombing, or collecting incredibly specific things like vintage cookbooks with luridly colored, gross-looking pictures of weird food. Whatever your obsessive hobby is, make it your private thing you only do with you. I shall now disclose some of the hobbies I only tend to when I’m with me, myself, and I, including:
• Photographing my two pet bunnies with props and costumes.
• Thrifting for said props and costumes.
• Collecting terrible lesbian erotica books from the ’70s and ’80s.
• Going to Sephora with Luca Turin and Tania Sanchez’s book Perfumes: The A–Z Guide and smelling all the perfumes they either love or hate.
• Perfecting my pedicure art. (My greatest feet [hardee har har] has been tiny emoji on each toe.)
• Watching Hoarders and then going on a decluttering bender in my apartment.
• Sending postcards to my mom.
• Walking through my neighborhood and looking for a baby robin that’s fallen out of its nest but still needs love and wants to be my pet, trained robin. (I’ve never been successful, but I will keep trying until the day I die.)
• Searching for delightful tiny objects such as puffy rainbow stickers and plastic charms from vending machines to include in care packages for friends.
• Watching YouTube makeup tutorials for extreme looks (such as this one on how to make your lips look like A THIRD EYE) and trying to copy them.
• Writing poetry in a particular coffee shop I go to only when I’m by myself.
• Testing out fresh YouTube-makeup-tutorial looks I’m not brave enough yet to wear in my “real life.”
The list goes on. If you haven’t found your own hobby yet, there are just so many waiting to be obsessed over, all on your own time.
Sometimes, when you’re really stressed out, the best way to use your alone time is by practicing Extreme Self-Care. Extreme Self-Care is when you dedicate a chunk of time to pampering and fussing over yourself. It’s like a solo spa night, but dramatically amplified. It can be done after something traumatic, like a breakup or a horrible day; when you’re feeling blue; or just because you think you’re great and want to spend some more time with you. On my ESC nights, I turn off my phone and hide my computer, and then I run myself the most lavish, bubbly bubble bath possible. While the tub is running, I pour an icy drink into a fancy glass (it must be a fancy glass) and then apply this bright-green face mask I have that’s supposed to tighten pores but actually doesn’t do anything except get me into character for Extreme Self-Care. When the bath is ready, I light some candles around it, put on a record (usually something high on drama, like the opera Carmen) and turn the volume way up. Then I get in the tub, where I soak for ages and do full-body exfoliation with scrubby gloves, all while the opera wails in the background. When I get out of the bathtub, I zip myself into my beautiful fleecy Forever Lazy pajamas (they have a zippered butt and crotch so you can go to the bathroom without ever having to take them off), pad into the kitchen, and make an enormous toasty sandwich before retreating to my bed to watch whatever mindless reality show captures my fancy that night (I just discovered My Cat From Hell).
The point here is lavishness and drama, darlings. Extreme Self-Care is all about making yourself feel immediately better in a big way, and taking gleeful pleasure in something that you, and only you, want to do. Revel in your alone time. Spoil yourself with how much you love you.
The thing about being alone is that it doesn’t have to include feeling lonely. Doing active, productive, fun, and/or indulgent stuff by yourself, can actually stave off loneliness. Getting to know yourself when you’re by yourself will also help you identify those moments when you do feel isolated and sad, and need to reach out to other people for help and companionship—which is another act of Extreme Self-Care.
I know it can feel like now will never end, but it is entirely possible that you won’t have this much time to yourself again for a long time. When you’re alone, think about it as a non-permanent, yet still important, part of your life that is shaping who you are as a person. And even in the shorter term—almost nothing is more satisfying than realizing you had an amazing day, all by yourself. ♦