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In Your Own Skin
By Fay Funk
I see a lot of advice on how to do things alone. It’s a common question especially in the Internet age as more and more activities that once required human interaction can be done virtually. It’s usually framed as advice on how to meet new people, how to go out alone and make new friends. Even as we grow more distant we desire human contact more and more, and instead of being natural it becomes a behavior we have to learn.
I did it, learned how to be alone. When I moved from New York back to Portland, Oregon the only people I knew were my parents, and I had no obvious outlet with which to meet new people. My closest friends lived in different cities and states, and sometimes countries. I have always fallen more on the introvert side of the spectrum of personality, but this was the first time in my life when there was no one around for me to see. I was used to personal space, not complete solitude. It felt strange, not wholly bad, but also not good. After a few isolating months, I made the decision to put myself out into the world.
I went to local concerts to get myself out there, and at first it caused me a lot of anxiety. The first night I went out alone I planned to take my dog for a walk beforehand, and my anxiety was so palpable that my dog refused to go on a walk with me, running back up the steps to our house when I tried to walk him, leash and all. Concerts are inherently social events. That’s why I was going, and why I was anxious. Most people go with their friends. That’s always what I had done in the past. Now I was almost always the only person alone at any show I went to.
Over time though, it got easier. The anxiety subsided, and as I became more familiar with the music Portland had to offer I started to enjoy going shows alone. It’s a different experience from going with friends, which I also started to do, slowly, as the faces around me became more familiar. There are pros and cons. There’s complete control over the direction of the night when going out alone, and feedback and conversation with friends. Both are good. Both are necessary too, I think, to being comfortable in your own skin at all times.
I think it’s a mistake to frame doing things alone as a means to meet new people. I did, of course, because that happens by virtue of participating in the world. But it was never my primary goal. Because if you don’t meet anyone after a night out by yourself the night feels like failure, and that’s not how it should be. When I went out to concerts, I went out to enjoy the music, and anything else that happened that night was incidental. No night was a failure.
Being alone feels like being abandoned. It felt that way even though I chose to move far away from all my closest friends. It felt that way even though my parents were around. And that was not an easy feeling to get over. It took months of trying, trying not to be dependent on someone else to enjoy the world, trying to be happy with just myself. All the anxiety and abandonment was worth it though, for the ability to take care of my own emotional needs. There are no more friendships simply out of convenience, toxic relationships formed to avoid loneliness. I can fill the voids those relationships filled on my own.
So I would recommend to everyone to learn how to be alone. Not how to meet people while alone, but to to just be alone. It can be awkward and painful at first. It’s a struggle for a long time. But once you can do it, it’s the most freeing sensation there is. Nothing can stop you.
#Relationships #Friendship #Solitude #Society #PersonalEssay