Me, Myself, And I: Learning To Go Out Alone

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Mar. 19 2013, Published 7:13 a.m. ET

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In grade school, we’re taught at a young age to join a team or pick a partner. The majority of our adolescent lives are about integrating ourselves into a club to discover our inner interests. Don’t get me wrong; collaborating with others sprouts some of the best ideas and innovations. Sharing moments with others can create timeless moments. However, the idea of discovering one’s true self is not something most focus on until their early twenties.

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“What you discover on your own is always more exciting than what someone else discovers for you – it’s like the marriage between romantic love and an arranged marriage.” – Terrence Rafferty

After high school, I quickly realized that some of my interests were no longer the same as all of my friends. Subsequently I found myself doing a lot more things solo.  On top of it all, many of my friends moved away for college. Naturally I was intimidated. I had hardly ever, if at all, participated in anything alone. But I figured it would also be a good way to meet new people in the midst of trying new things.

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Although I am an only child and I grew up doing many things alone, doing this as a young adult made me feel silly. Often I felt self-conscious, thinking everyone in the room wondered why I ate or shopped alone. Then moving to New York knowing only two acquaintances automatically put me in the position of solitude.  Yet the more I ventured into solo-ism, the less lonesome I felt. I realized the only person who’s aware that you’re alone is you. Here are a few tips on how to ride the solo wave without falling off. Don’t worry; it’s not as bad as it seems.

  • Take baby steps.

If the thought of doing something you enjoy alone intimidates you, don’t jump into it all at once.  Many cities offer free or low cost panel discussions. Find one that piques your interest. Panel discussions aren’t the most social settings and sitting alone in a crowd won’t make you feel like a tiny shrimp in a vast ocean.

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  • Explore your city.

When the weather’s warm, hop off the train at random stops and wander around the city. 90% of the time I run into a store or gallery I’ve never seen or a free pop up event. Granted, those who reside in New York City have the advantage of living in the cultural hub of America but I’ve met plenty of people who are born and raised in NYC and still have yet to uncover the city’s true gems. Yes, I know your rent is sky high and you want to get your money’s worth by watching Netflix in your Snuggie. But life is too short and New York is too intoxicating to waste substantial time indoors.

If you live in a smaller city, check the local paper, local websites, or search your city on Twitter for event listings. Hint: the best ones are free! (Or maybe I’m just cheap).

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  • Know your limits and interests.

You’ve been itching to go hiking and none of your friends are willing to join? That’s the perfect opportunity to venture out by yourself. Even if it’s less adventurous, like trying a new restaurant, don’t feel silly eating alone. It can be surprisingly refreshing. I imagine going to a party/club/bar alone isn’t the most pleasurable experience. That might be one of the only activities where I draw the line.

  • Eating at a restaurant solo.

“Table for one?” The godawful question. Turn your pity party into a spicy night out with the person you know best – you. Order the food you want. Enjoy that entire dish of spinach dip by yourself. Take time to savor every moment of your food. Bring a book, newspaper or magazine to keep yourself entertained.  Having a notebook with you is another great activity.  You can use the time to write out whatever is running around in your mind.  A creative way to make yourself feel a bit more comfortable is to find a great seat.  Try to find a seat with your back to the wall, but facing the entire restaurant. Another great seat is a spot near a window so you can people watch a bit.

Throughout my journey, I’ve learned to enjoy the company of myself. Being alone doesn’t have to mean lonely. The security of delving into things on my own makes me feel centered and accomplished. Ahhh friends, who needs ‘em? (Kidding!) Besides, there is no one who knows you better than you. And like the good quote says “A man who finds no satisfaction in himself will seek for it in vain elsewhere.” – La Rochefoucauld

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