I’m Not Lonely Because I’m Alone

I went on a date with myself and didn’t feel lonely even though I was alone.

I’ve been struggling to define what I think is fun because it isn’t always what most other people my age enjoy doing. The imminence of graduation hangs over my weekend plans as thick and as heavy as the humid Missouri weather on these slow, blistering August days. I get dressed up and go out to bars long after I start to feel tired because it’s what I’m “supposed to do” to socialize as a young 20-something in her last year of college. Some nights I don’t mind squeezing between rows of boys in boat shoes or brushing past girls dabbing yellowed stains of spilled beer off of their neon hi-low skirts.

Tonight was different.

I wanted to see a movie, and I decided to go alone. I used to feel ashamed of spending time alone. I thought it meant no one wanted to spend time with me.

I now know that this isn’t true. That people have other interests and commitments and that’s nothing to take personally. I could’ve asked many people to go with me, and I’m positive several of them would have happily obliged. Instead, I walked with nothing but a wallet full of loose coins and a mind full of even looser thoughts to Panera, my favorite fast food chain, and ordered my favorite meal. The young couple eating at the table next to me said as many words on their date as I did on mine. Instead of feeling empty and alone while eating beside two others, I felt full and comfortable. When the cheery Panera employee asked me if I’d enjoyed my dinner, I said yes. And I had.

Once I’d finished, I walked to the movie theater and saw Blue Jasmine, the only movie showing at the time. I felt sympathy for a detestable, neurotic character acted brilliantly by Cate Blanchett and sipped a glass of wine as the couple next to me held hands and, eventually, stopped watching the movie to watch each other.

On a campus of 35,000, I rarely feel alone. I always have a friend to study with, watch television with, eat frozen custard with and, sometimes, cry with. To consciously and actively be alone is scary, simply because its all too easy to avoid the worst parts of ourselves. We don’t have to listen to our worries when we’re with other people, and we don’t even have to focus on our impending fears when we scroll through Twitter or watch television because technology distracts us from the issues we aren’t ready to face.

I faced myself tonight. I turned off my phone and sat in a movie in silence. I walked home and, instead of looking at my smartphone, listened as the mid-Missouri wildlife sang a country lullaby that I don’t know when I’ll hear again after I graduate. Tonight, I decided that I could finally be comfortable enough with who I am to be completely and consciously alone in public.

I went on a date by myself and didn’t feel lonely even though I was alone.

I think I might be growing up.