Don’t be afraid to go it alone
We are always with someone. Whether we’re physically next to our friends or peers, or digitally connecting with whatever new-fangled social media device our generation is supposed to be using now-a-days, most of the time we are with company.
In and of itself, this poses no immediate consequences – this constant connection seems a beautiful, easily accessible stimulant. But what worries me is when people equate being alone with being lonely.
“Oh, you don’t have Twitter/Facebook/this-app-that-makes-telepathy-possible?” “What do you mean you don’t want to go out?” I’ve heard countless people say things like that with the same sympathy in their voice that couples use to speak to their single friends on Valentine’s Day. If your waking moments are not spent in, or in the pursuit of, social interaction – digital or otherwise – it’s like you have failed your obligation as a human being, and as a consequence, you must be a sad, lonely person.
This dependence on interaction is terrifying to me. I’d like to think I’m interesting enough to enjoy spending time by myself – and if not, what does that say about me as a person? Or, an even greater fear: if I don’t enjoy spending time with me, do my friends?
If I could share one piece of advice it would be: don’t be afraid to go it alone.
Block out a piece of time just for you. Leave your phone at home, along with all other devices with internet capabilities. Maybe take the time to explore a new route or neighborhood.
Never been to Alphabet City? Go for it. Never walked along the Hudson? Do it. Don’t take an errand list or a particular destination with you, just go and see what you find.
I took this same advice on Saturday when I decided to walk back to Columbia from the Met, where I had been working on an Art Hum paper.
I took a new route along Fifth, instead of back through the park and walking along Broadway or Amsterdam. I got to revisit the Conservatory Gardens (about East 105th Street), one of the hidden gems of Central Park, where I saw a wedding party getting ready to take their photos.
Once in the park, I again decided to take a new route. I skirted the inside of Harlem Meer, a lake where you can fish catch-and-release style at the northeast end of the Park. I talked to a man who had just been fishing, carrying his rod and tackle box. “It was a good day,” he told me, “but you got to let ‘em go, you know.”
Further down, I saw a man in his sixties patiently try to teach his wife how to bait the line. Two men trying to teach their boys how to cast properly. A woman sitting cross-legged tossing bread to a raft of ducks who were all impatient for the next crumbs.
Two friends looking across the Meer together without saying anything in particular, a family having a picnic – all within an hour. Not a significant chunk of time to spend in your own company, but enough.
As I walked back into my dorm, I ran into a friend. “Where have you been?” she asked.
“Out for a walk.”
“Want to come to Butler with me?”
Just like that I was back. It was so easy to slip back into the rhythm of social interaction; I didn’t miss anything. In fact, I’d say I even gained a thing or two while I was gone.