The ability to spend time unattended without freaking out about it is an essential skill regardless of your relationship status. I know it’s clichéd and all of you are going to groan when I say it, but if you can’t be happy with only yourself, you’re never going to be happy with anyone else—friends, partners, coworkers, rodeo clowns, whoever. The problem with that is that being alone for any reason has a negative connotation in our society. Have a look at the thesaurus.com entry for the word “alone”: suggestions for alternate words include “abandoned”, “forlorn”, “desolate” and even “widowed”. It’s as though being alone for any length of time is something tragic, as if the only people who would choose to be by themselves are people who have no other option.
When I was in preschool, my teachers called my parents because they were deeply concerned about my social capabilities: instead of eating snack at the table with the other kids, I elected to munch graham crackers on the floor by myself. This early propensity toward independence continued through high school. I had a few close friends, but I needed lots of alone time to focus on forming strong relationships with fictional characters. I wasn’t antisocial (see definition of that word here). I just got my energy from talking to myself rather than from talking to others.
My freshman year of college changed all that. I met hundreds of people, forged great friendships and tried all kinds of new things (all of which were legal, thankyouverymuch). Between my dorm, class, the dining hall and various weekend activities, I was almost never alone.
Read that sentence again. I. Was. Never. Alone.
In the space of a year, I went from being a relatively socially able kid who spent most of her time reading books, listening to music and writing down everything that came to mind, to being an adult with a fantastic social life but few internal resources. Hanging out solo for too long began to make me seriously uncomfortable, and I was not okay with that. Everybody needs to be alone sometimes. Being able to entertain yourself is a skill born out of self-reliance, not social catastrophe. With that in mind, here’s a guide not to being sad and lonely by yourself, but to being happy and relaxing with yourself.
What is not sucking? Not sucking is defined in the world of self-entertainment as being able to amuse oneself for at least two hours at a time without going completely bonkers.
- Strip. The best way to begin a hangout with yourself is to take off all unnecessary clothing.At the very least, this means switching to pajama pants, though no pants at all are best if you’re alone in your bedroom or have tolerant roommates. If you wear a bra, it should get gone too. Don’t bother with that nonsense. Heck, if your apartment is a comfortable temperature, hanging out completely au naturel can be beneficial for your body image. Basically, wear (or don’t wear) whatever makes you feel most comfortable. This time is about you. In that same vein, here’s what you should do when you’re hanging out with yourself one-on-one:
- Whatever you want. Wanna binge on Psych on Netflix? Go ahead. Feel a deep need to move your body? Do some yoga (it’s great for your back). Are you a well-read masochist who likes dragons? Consider picking up Game of Thrones. This is your time. Do what makes you happy, do what makes you peaceful, do what makes you healthy. (This is also an ideal time for a nap.) When your apartment ceases to be the place of wonder and magic it used to be…
- Put your clothes back on and go out. Ever been to a restaurant by yourself? It’s an intimidating experience at first, but after the initial “‘How many?’ ‘Just one’” awkwardness, it gets to be fun eating all the free breadsticks at once. (People might look at you. Let them. They wish they could be as independent as you are.) Movies are even better; you get to pick what you see, and there’s no jockeying for armrest space. Going out by yourself—as long as you’re reasonably safe about it—can be a really fun way to find out what you like independent of what your friends, family and/or significant other enjoy. One of the best ways to discover yourself is to…
- Try new stuff. Ever been to that Indian restaurant downtown? Ever seen a foreign film? Ever walked around a zoo and made faces at the animals just to see how they’d respond? No? Try it! (But try the last one at a safe distance from the lions, okay? And keep it in the spirit of fun, not meanness. Giraffes may seem happy-go-lucky, but they’re really rather sensitive.) If you try something new and hate it, you don’t have to suffer through it just to please somebody else. Instead, go try something different until a new interest sticks.
- Get stuff done. Responsibility is never more attractive than when it’s your only option for amusement. If you run out of adventures to have by yourself, then clean your room, get ahead in your schoolwork or your job, or call the plumber to come fix your sink. Better yet, Google how to fix your sink yourself.*
- Read a book. If you read, you may find yourself alone from time to time, but you will never be lonely.
*I am not responsible for your water/electricity/small mammal-related mishaps. If you and yourself would like to be alone with some other people and their selves, go like The How Not to Suck Blog on Facebook and follow us on Twitter @hownottosuckblg (no, there’s no “o” in “blg”).