Thought #1: It’s only lame if you tell yourself that.
Every time I’ve thought about my habit of taking myself out, in cities I’ve lived and visited–to spend full days exploring and enjoying my own company, going out to dinner, and to a movie or musical or concert–this little voice from society whispers, Shhhh. It’s joined by messages like, “Enjoying being alone makes you a person that is ________ [insert negative adjective that immediately comes to mind].” Because the pressure to go out in groups, on dates, or with friends is out in the open, and is socially acceptable. Motivational messages to take yourself out–to fill a day and night with things you want to do alone– are typically nowhere to be found.
I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve heard people (mostly women, but sometimes men) say, “I wanted to do _________ [insert activity], but I didn’t have anyone to go with me.” Since I was 21, that sentence–because of the immediate regret I knew I’d feel if I didn’t do something I wanted to–has not been part of my vocabulary. To me, living fully means doing the things you want to do (within reason, considering safety, of course)–whether you have someone joining you or not. (I’ll carry on with the point of this post, though, instead of rambling about all the things I’ve happily done alone.)
Thought #2: Wellington is an amazing city to spend quality alone time.
While noticing that Wellington’s qualities are perfect for taking yourself out, with its pedestrian-friendly city centre, compact design with heaps of dining and coffee options, abundant street art and brightly painted buildings, I realized I’ve been repeating routines I had when I lived in New York. Wandering solo, letting the streets take me wherever I choose, with no time constraints. Stopping at a coffee shop, sitting on a park bench, journaling, taking pictures, people-watching. Dining at a new restaurant, strolling through a pop-up market or food festival, seeing a show at night, riding public transit home. When I lived in New York (and in Madison, Milwaukee, and Watertown, WI) I found ways to happily fill my time, taking myself out, and I’m thrilled to have found similar activities in New Zealand.
Thought #3: Don’t be afraid of your own company.
Alone time isn’t something to be feared. I’m aware this looks different for extroverts and introverts, but it’s important for everyone–to take time to check in with yourself, to take time for yourself, to spend time with yourself. It’s easy to quiet your own thoughts when constantly surrounded by others, which is why solo time, and the space it creates, can be so valuable.
I’m hoping the societal messages about this topic change shape in the future. So that to spend time alone, not just on a weekday afternoon, but on a Friday or Saturday night, is not–gasp–indicative of a sad, lonely individual. That to spend time in your own company doesn’t have to represent abandonment or rejection, something to be pitied. It can be a choice, and not one made because of a lack of available company. It can be a choice for yourself–choosing to take yourself out, and enjoying it. Because everyone deserves that kind of joy, to appreciate your own company, and to know you’re worth your own time.
One final thought, to prove that this relates to all phases of life. My mom, in her 60s, recently went to a wine tasting event by herself. She’d wanted to bring someone, but when that didn’t pan out, she decided to go solo. Afterwards, she told me, smiling, “You know, it was nice to do something on my own, when I normally wouldn’t have. I got to go at my own pace, and had a great time. I’m going to do more things like this by myself from now on.” And that, that notion of not letting being alone hold you back from things you want to do, is living life to the fullest.