Having been born the oldest in a family of eight children, and then at a young age, marrying and raising three daughters of my own, it was a long time before I had the chance to explore myself by myself. Some people hate being alone in almost any circumstance, while others, myself included, enjoy time to ourselves on a regular basis. For me, the truest tests of whether or not I enjoyed my own company came when I decided to do a brave thing: eat alone in a restaurant. Gasp! The very idea!
I’ll admit that the first few times I ventured out with this, I felt self-conscious and uncomfortable. I didn’t know where to look, what to do with my hands, and of course, there was no one sitting across from me with whom to get lost in conversation. I was even overly aware of how I took a bite, chewed, numerous things which now seem so silly.
I persisted. To solve the self-consciousness, I began taking a newspaper or puzzle book on my lone restaurant outings. This helped greatly. Eventually, in the places I frequented regularly, the people working there began to know me on sight, and we would strike up conversations. Small talk at first, which led to more personal types of conversations. These people became much like friends.
The next big step was to go to the movies alone. This one went better, once the lights were dimmed. I was able to lose myself in the plot on the big screen and in munching my popcorn. Another hurdle crossed.
When I left my long-time marriage, something I had needed to do for a very long time, this was the biggest and bravest step of all. Living alone with no children at home, no spouse, and no familiar neighbors. I was both terrified and jubilant. At the age of 50+, I was literally on my own for the first time in my life. I remember feeling homesick and lost for several months.
As time went on, though, I decorated my apartment strictly to my own tastes and budget. I felt a freedom like no other, because there was no one to criticize me, no one but myself to factor into each decision. I relearned who I was. I did what I enjoyed and also learned many new things with which to occupy myself, especially in the evenings, alone. I got to know the neighbors and the area. I went for walks and on shopping trips alone, and still ate out, sometimes alone, and sometimes with a friend or family member, and it really was okay!
If you don’t quite know what to do when alone, or if it makes you uncomfortable, experiment, do little things at first. Then venture on to bigger, braver things, like a meal out or a movie by yourself. Get reacquainted with things you once loved but have put on hold for whatever reason. Learn a new skill you’ve been wanting to master. Or just think. Be in the moment and realize who you are and what you love to do when alone. It is a very freeing thing.
It has been said that the true test of who you really are is who you are when completely alone. I discovered that I’m a decent individual, curious, creative, diverse.
Do you enjoy your own company? What do you do when alone to enjoy yourself? What have you learned about yourself in the presence of just your own company?
Karen Chaffee is a freelance writer, poet, and artist living in Michigan.