Fun

How to Be Alone

Your favorite person to hang out with could be you.

Illustration by Ana.

Illustration by Ana.

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. ♦

52 Comments

  • izi April 25th, 2014 3:27 PM

    hey, heads up, in the 12th paragraph it says “wea” instead of “wear”. wow i feel really annoying now.

    • Anaheed April 25th, 2014 3:30 PM

      Thank you! Not annoying at all—quite the opposite.

  • jumpship April 25th, 2014 3:29 PM

    This is awesome advice! I recently started making mix cds with silly covers and sending them to my friends, and i got this massive eyeshadow palette with a zillion colours so i do ridiculous makeup in my time alone because it’s fun.

  • AidaA April 25th, 2014 3:48 PM

    This is great! I’m introverted and I feel like I physically need some alone time to, as you put it, recharge, otherwise I can’t really handle social situations. (I even went on a reality tv show to try and learn how to socialise! Maybe I should write about it haha) But I also really, really love being alone. I get to go at my own pace and explore thins without pressure. I’ve always wanted to go to the cinema alone. I might go and rewatch The Grand Budapest Hotel alone. I love the idea of ESC too. Thanks Rookie x

    http://sunshinesuperwoman.blogspot.co.uk

  • princessmado April 25th, 2014 4:00 PM

    Wowowow thank you for writing this article!! It made me feel a lot less self conscious about preferring to spend my weekends/free time alone. Socializing is just so exhausting! I might go for a nice walk and take a bath later. Thank you again! 。^‿^。

  • sashafayesquash April 25th, 2014 4:02 PM

    Omg, Krista I absolutely love this so so much! Spending time alone can often feel depleting or boring or just sad but I’m learning how to try and avoid feeling lonely when I’m alone (begin lypsincing to Stronger by Kelly Clarkson).

    Thank you! <3

    – Sasha

    • tortu12 April 25th, 2014 6:58 PM

      “Doesn’t mean I’m lonely when I’m alo-oone” :D

  • speakeasied April 25th, 2014 4:02 PM

    This is definitely what I needed for my Friday night alone tonight.

  • herdinthehalls April 25th, 2014 4:15 PM

    This is fantastic! I went to the same art museum twice in the last 2 weeks (once yesterday) and wandered around sections I missed. Got some selfies with paintings :) Sometimes museums even have photographs of their collections online, so that’s something cool to look at for inspiration!

    http://rockpapermisc.blogspot.com/

  • Cruicked April 25th, 2014 4:37 PM

    I needed this. Thank you, Krista. I know I’ll keep coming back to this for ages.

  • FeministReader April 25th, 2014 4:46 PM

    This is so helpful! I do some of these things when I’m alone, but felt like I should spice it up. So this is perfect!

  • Alaska April 25th, 2014 5:41 PM

    Yay introverts unite! I’ve always preferred my own company and I’m never bored alone. My extended family makes such a fuss about it as if it’s not a normal thing, how deprived I am and how unhealthy it is. I think it’s far healthier learning to understand who I am and why so that I can respect and depend on myself when I need too. Being around others is fine too but there are instances when friends and family can’t be there for you. Also.. Minimal contact with pollution and humans spreading germs is a plus. Being in my room or in the woods on my own, with a book or music – I’m sorted and UNASHAMED. :)

  • LittleTiny April 25th, 2014 5:54 PM

    I have had so much fun going out to breakfast by myself. I sit at the counter of my fav restaurant and order my pancakes and coffee. Afterwards I’ll head across the street to the beach and either walk or find a nice spot to read.

    Recently I went to some concerts by myself. It was amazing! No need to worry about how another person was feeling about the music or if they wanted to leave. It was great to just feel the energy of the artist and bask in it.

  • internalbeautyx April 25th, 2014 5:59 PM

    Story of my life. It makes me wish I wasn’t having a sleepover later.

  • queenofpineapples April 25th, 2014 6:53 PM

    As an extrovert I get energy from people, but every now and then I need some me time. The thing is, I turn to dark thoughts when I find myself alone for too long. These ideas will hopefully distract me from my thoughts. Thank you Krista!!

    Queen of pineapples

  • tortu12 April 25th, 2014 6:54 PM

    Haha, this article is PERFECT reading material for me while I sit in a coffee shop ALONE, just because it’s Friday and I have no commitments, so I’m doing something enjoyable, ALL BY MY SELF. :)

  • April 25th, 2014 7:14 PM

    Thankyou sooooo much for this article, suffering from a teenage breakup and enjoying being by myself is something I have always been terrible at, I never know how to not feel lonely/awkward being by myself in a coffee shop/concert etc, but I will attempt to learn!

  • Zoë April 25th, 2014 8:31 PM

    i thought i was strange for loving to hang out myself. this article just explains everything. SO MANY EMOTIONS. And now i really want to try that third eye thing…

  • Watermelon April 25th, 2014 9:39 PM

    I just moved to NYC by myself, and I found a baby dying mouse on the ground near a church. I took him in and he was lively again within the hour – keep looking for that baby robin!

  • ladyjenna April 25th, 2014 9:39 PM

    lol in your description of brett ashley sounds like gustave h.

    p.s. this is totally what rilke had in mind when he said ‘discover yourself in solitude’.

  • martinmorning April 26th, 2014 12:41 AM

    Krista, I love this! The problem sometimes with telling people about your introverted tendencies is that they mistake it for depression and loneliness. While this may be the case sometimes, it’s mostly just the satisfaction of being alone with my thoughts. Thanks!

  • RatioRae April 26th, 2014 2:17 AM

    I love this, I love being alone. Thanks for this wonderful article. I will definitely be trying some of these activities.

    http://thegirlwhodrankstars.blogspot.com

  • ellamay April 26th, 2014 2:44 AM

    Love this post! I can so relate to this as I’m definitely someone who enjoys being alone, if not all the time.

    x Ella
    http://ellamayho.blogspot.com
    http://ellamayho.blogspot.com

  • rockwrenroll April 26th, 2014 3:06 AM

    Might I include a mention of this video:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k7X7sZzSXYs

    It’s a poem called, “How to Be Alone” by Tanya Davis and it’s lovely.

    This article, however, is wonderful!

  • Sho-Sho April 26th, 2014 4:17 AM

    “Language has created the word loneliness to express the pain of being alone. And it has created the word solitude to express the glory of being alone.” Paul Tillich

  • CharmingKitty April 26th, 2014 5:15 AM

    Although I appreciate the company of others surrounding me, I’m totally at ease when I’m alone and, in certain ways, I prefer it to hanging out with a crowd.
    When I’m all by myself (which, unlike the Celine Dion track, isn’t as miserable as you would think), I’m able to develop a special friendship with the one person who knows me inside out: myself.
    In order to gain happiness, I believe to getting used to being in your own skin – and inevitably alone – is vital.

  • the_smartorialist April 26th, 2014 10:45 AM

    This is so good. Wanting to be alone at times does NOT make you boring, it makes you human, and that message needs to be out there. Socialising is no fun when you’re obligated to do it.
    Also, Countdown is the best Beyoncé song of all time for reals. Yeah, I said it. *Hides under desk*

  • flocha April 26th, 2014 12:08 PM

    I can only totally relax when I’m alone, even when I’m with people I love I’m never totally at ease. Plus nothing compares to being able to watch whatever tv you like without other people’s commentary ruining it for you

    http://whimsicalprocrastination.blogspot.co.uk

    • Berries April 27th, 2014 10:37 AM

      I feel the same thing. Sometimes people are hurt when I say that but I’m like – it’s not you it’s me, it’s ok!

  • anasofia April 26th, 2014 12:28 PM

    This post is exactly what i needed! i been asking me about my existence and how to “handle” my alone time and this is just perfect, i’m super grateful.

  • Nadifa April 26th, 2014 12:43 PM

    This is really great. I do love hanging out with my friends, but sometimes I just want to be alone and I thought it’s quite not normal but I guess now I know it is normal.
    I will try my best to improve and be productive on my hobby, cross-stitching, which is probably boring to some people my age. I also have a long list of tv shows that I need to watch (most of them are Cumberbatch’s masterpieces /creepy grin/)

    http://thebasementoffosterkids.tumblr.com

  • Milala April 26th, 2014 3:18 PM

    I needed this SO much, thank you! I’ve always loved being alone and on my own, going to the cinema alone, etc, but then I was in a relationship for 3 years and sort of forgot what I loved about it so much. Now that it’s ended I’m sort of excited about being on my own again, it’s fun and healthy.

  • AhDee April 26th, 2014 3:32 PM

    Ah, I really like this post.
    Yay. Positive look on spending time alone.

    I also like spending time with people. But after spending time socializing I always need my alone break. :]

  • ChanelLover April 26th, 2014 4:50 PM

    Thank you so much for writing this! My boyfriend just broke up with me and I won’t see most of my friends for the next two weeks. I have a thing to do in those weeks: Learning how to be alone and happy! Thanks again!!!!!! X

  • lexilikes April 26th, 2014 5:07 PM

    AH I loved this article. I need time alone after socializing or just being around people in general. My favourite thing to do is sit on my bed and read, journal, draw, get stuck in internet search rabbit holes, watch anime etc. But it makes my bed my absolute favourite place in the world! Thanks for the awesome article Rookie <3

    http://www.lexilikes.com/

  • lotusmarina April 26th, 2014 9:25 PM

    Oh

    My

    Gosh

    For the longest time I was in the mindset that you ABSOLUTELY had to be doing something (for someone else, homework, exercise what have you) but doing something for YOU didn’t count. I am so so happy to have read this article, one of my faves on Rookie so far.

  • Me_Magalloway April 27th, 2014 1:16 AM

    I’m so lucky, since I have a mountain right outside my door! I climb it almost everyday, when I really need alone time. People can be so infuriating.
    I’m still working on being in public alone, though. It’s not easy for me to do, since I always end up seeing someone who’ll be a jerk about it, or a friend who wants to join me. *sigh* The problems of living in a small town.
    It’s a work in progress, but I’m on my way to becoming that one girl who sits alone at lunch (on purpose) and draws witch-y symbols all over her lunch tray. Huzzah!

    http://navigating-fairyland.blogspot.com/

  • Berries April 27th, 2014 10:36 AM

    I used to be very comfy Being Alone, but now it feels less comfy. However, I still have to have these days/evenings/mornings/whatev alone, mostly for make collages, writing letters and dancing/singing in my bedroom. I prefer to go to parties alone, as well as shopping. I often exercise alone as well, which can be really nice. I also like laying in bed in the sun, during the day, and listening to my favorite albums and feel everything.
    Once I went to a lecture in another city and I spend my whole day there alone – I had applepie in a coffeeshop and wrote a letter there, and some stranger quotes his poetry to me, and there was some street theatre and I went to nice little shops.

    When I write poetry, I must do it alone and the method would look pretty dramatic when viewed by others, so this is what I do:
    Whenever I feel like I have to/should write poetry, I go behind my computer and watch a shitload of poetry slams. I will cry for an hour, then read poetry from websites and Tumblrs and cry more. In the meantime, I will be really inspired and write a lot, cry in the meantime as well because I often write about things that make me feel like shit, really angry and frustrated, etc. These sessions often take about 3 hours and I go to bed late. I feel proud, productive and fulfilled after I have written the poem, and I sleep really well because I am physically tired. I wouldn’t have a clue how to write poetry when I am in the presence of others, really. They would be like ARE YOU OKAY OMG, and I would be like – I’M MAKING ART MKAY IM FINE.

  • Berries April 27th, 2014 10:39 AM

    However I still want to learn how to go to concerts and festivals alone. I went to the cinema, which was okay, but concerts… I now I miss out on all these concerts I want to go to!

  • mercrediaddams April 27th, 2014 10:42 AM

    OMG this post.
    I love spending time on my own. The other day I made plans to go see the Grand Budapest Hotel, so I did my best to dress up like a Wes Anderson character – you know, preppy, hedonist, quirky- bought Ben&Jerry’s and completed my day with a long walk home across Paris, all by myself. You can also learn how to cook stuff, customize everything you own, enjoy tasty bits of Rookie, everything you suggested in this article, write love letters for your friends, forgiveness letters for the friends you’ve lost (I actually never send those, but they’re still really soothing)…
    I mean, social media sometimes make you feel like socializing is Everything and needs to happen All the Time, and sure it’s great, but alone time? Indispensable. You get to know yourself (and discover you’re awesome), nurse your wounds, create or enjoy as much art as you want. Ironically I also feel so much more at ease and happy around others now that I’ve embraced that—I almost no longer have this shitty post-party anxiety of wondering if I was boring, secretly bored, should have more friends etc.

  • Alzo April 27th, 2014 12:44 PM

    I love being alone. Recently, I’ve been on a quest to become a film nerd. It’s been great! I’ll treat myself and stream different movies on my laptop. My current alternatives have been researching for projects that I’ll never do, and watching complete tv series on Netflix.

  • painting_the_roses_pink April 27th, 2014 4:09 PM

    This article is perfect for me right now! Yesterday was my school’s junior prom and I’m so exhausted, I really needed day to myself to relax. I don’t know how some people hang out with others 24/7 it would kill me! Later I’m going to watch every Wes Anderson movie ever and make a delicious dinner for my favorite person! (me)
    Its funny so many of you are saying you wanted to go see The Grand Budapest by yourself because thats exactly what I did last week! (10/10 it was beautiful)

    I hope all of you get to spend some quality time with yourselves this week!

    http://aroseofadifferentcolor.tumblr.com

  • Ally_O April 27th, 2014 5:07 PM

    I love and need to be alone. In fact, pretty much my favorite time of the week is my alone time on the weekend when I can be lazy and relax (aka what I’m doing right now).

  • Rossy April 27th, 2014 11:55 PM

    I am all about being alone, I really enjoy it, but when you mentioned “…a concert without your pals.” it reminded me of a couple weeks ago when I went to this Cut Copy concert and the one pal I was going with had to cancel at the last moment.

    I decided to go anyway because I love Cut Copy, and also because bands I love rarely come to my country, so this was an opportunity that could not be wasted, so I went by myself and I wasn’t happy about it. I felt sooooo lame and pathetic and uncomfortable. Everyone around me was having fun and laughing in couples and groups and I just wanted to disappear while waiting for the band to play, but once the band started playing, I decided to stop feeling sorry for myself and actually enjoy the show, and I did, and it ended up being such a great unexpectedly amazing experience. It was weirdly wonderful going to a concert alone, and I recommend it!

  • cellardoor10 April 28th, 2014 1:04 AM

    For those of us who might have found the section about terrible 70s and 80s lesbian erotica intriguing, where might one find thisreading material, and do you have any recommendations???

  • Mer April 28th, 2014 6:23 PM

    I love spending time alone, but I am so afraid for college. I am going to NYU next year and I feel like some might not respect my oh so cherished alone time. I am also afraid that the city will swallow me whole and I will become another “film” student trying to make it. I found this article to be so true.

    Also you haven’t experienced the brilliance of the movie Her until you’ve seen it right after a break up in a theater by yourself. With Spike Jonze’s amazing script, Hoytemma’s cinematography and Arcade Fire’s soundtrack, your emotions will get the best of you. So amazing to enjoy any form of art alone. It makes you feel more connected to the world around you.

  • VagabondZombie April 29th, 2014 11:28 AM

    This article couldn’t have said it any better. I love being alone and spending time with myself is what makes me who I am. It enables me to be productive and creative and do all the fun stuff I’ve always wanted to do without anyone interrupting or distracting me. Sometimes, being with other people makes me feel depressed for some reason and makes me want to go home and watch Doctor Who.

    I wish some people, who are friends with introverts or just people who want to be alone, would understand that. We should spread awareness. Haha. :3

    http://vagabondzombie.blogspot.ae/

  • grumpykitten April 29th, 2014 2:42 PM

    This reminds me of when I was between 19 and 21 — all of my friends had moved out of town and I was too shy to make new ones. I did pretty much everything by myself: going to cafés, movies, rock shows. While I did enjoy this life much of the time, I wish I had been able to ignore the little voice in my head that was frequently pointing out that I had no friends or boyfriend, and I should be sad about that. I remember feeling a moment of realization while reading a part in Cometbus (a long-running punk/personal ‘zine) where author Aaron talked about one of his teenage crushes and how he had admired her self-assurance because she was always doing things by herself. I had never thought about things that way, that it takes a certain type of courage and maturity to do things on one’s own. Anyway, thanks again to Rookie for writing about things I wish I had been able to read when I was a teenager.

  • Tiana April 29th, 2014 4:22 PM

    I am in love with this article <3 I'm so going to do some of these things. I love my friends but being alone really is brilliant!
    Tiana x
    http://www.the-romanticiser.blogspot.co.uk

  • adacharlotte April 29th, 2014 7:15 PM

    I’m extremely introverted so this is perfect! The part about needing time by yourself is how I feel pretty much all the time. Socializing is so exhausting! I always feel guilty about saying no to my friends (they’re almost all extraverts) when they want to hang out, though.

  • wallflower152 May 7th, 2014 9:06 PM

    Yay, introverts unite! I almost always prefer the company of myself to that of others. When I was younger I felt the need to socialize and that put me in situations I didn’t feel comfortable in. Not because there was anything wrong with the people I hung out with but just cuz I’m an introvert. Now I totally embrace it. Besides my bf and my family (and work lol) I hardly ever see people.

    It’s funny that so many of the comments mention the Grand Budapest Hotel. I’m currently watching all Wes Anderson films in order and I have a composition book where I write my reflections on them afterward. I’ve always heard great things about his films (mostly from Rookie). Hopefully I finish them while GBH is still in theaters!

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