Valentine's Day can be isolating, regardless of your relationship status. With that in mind, this February we'd like to focus on feelings of loneliness and everything that comes along with them. We're doing a deep-dive into our own experiences with being alone—whether it's finding peace, feeling alienated, or reckoning with all those emotions at once.
We all know people who thrive being around other people. They’re the friends who have social events scheduled for every single night of the week and the relatives who host a big gathering every holiday, no matter how minor. I love these people; in fact, they kind of amaze me, because, when it comes to being social, I can’t relate to their tendencies at all. Though I do enjoy a party every now and then, and love spending time with my closest friends, being social generally takes a lot of energy out of me. Throughout my 20s, I’ve learned that I am at my best self when I make time to be alone with a good TV show, book, or podcast and my perfect day is probably one spent at home. As a self-identifying homebody, I was thrilled when my fiancé and I both started working from home—but I wasn’t prepared for how my time with myself, and just myself, would dwindle.
Most days of the week, my partner and I are together all day long. Granted, we usually work from different rooms, but for most meals, and of course all day on weekends, we’re together. There is no commuting time to break things up, or late nights spent apart in our respective offices. And while this change hasn’t been a problem for our relationship (in fact, it’s been pretty great), it has been more difficult for my relationship with myself.
It’s simply too easy now to have someone with me when I do all the small things I used to do alone, like going for a run, walking the dog, grocery shopping, or just grabbing coffee. As much as I love having company, I realized recently this was becoming just too comfortable for me—and that I was becoming less comfortable with just spending time alone. Knowing I need this alone time to thrive personally, I decided to reprioritize time for myself. For about a month, I decided to take myself on dates.
Admittedly, the idea of going to a romantic dinner alone intimidated me, so I chose other things that seemed more doable—things that were just for me, and no one else. I began taking a brand new, weekly workout class I had never tried before and (frankly) terrified me. I took myself out for morning coffee and pastries and made myself sit alone at the cafe, trying my best not to spend the entire meal scrolling through my phone. I had a movie night with me, myself, and I. I also reprioritized working outside of the house one to two days a week. I had avoided it for a while as a way to save money on fancy lattes, but it turned out this change of scenery and simply being in a space independently did wonders for my creativity.
None of these things are particularly mind-blowing and, in fact, there were a couple of the things I wanted to do (going to a movie on my own, going to dinner by myself) that I ultimately chickened out of. However, the simple act of prioritizing time for myself and, more importantly, being very aware of time spent by myself and how I was using it did wonders for my mental health. When you’re in a long-term relationship and love your partner, of course you want to spend all your time with them. Of course you want to share all the things and experiences. But making more time for myself reminded me that time spent alone is just as vital to feeling confident and happy. Since my month of spending more time with myself, I now find myself consciously making space for the things I love to do day in and day out (and doing them alone), because I know that that’s what it takes for my creativity, energy, and confidence to thrive. And who knows, maybe next month I will get around to that solo dinner or movie.