As a kid, I always wanted to be surrounded by people, always tagging along with friends and I always thought being alone felt ‘weird.’ As I grew up, I started to enjoy being alone and I also started to realise that society had enforced this invincible rule or stereotype that when you’re alone – whether eating or shopping, basically doing mundane things – you’re seen as the odd one out. We’ve watched this in movies and read this in books, the loners or the outcasts. Being alone is seen as strange, like something otherworldly almost.
Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t my first time being alone. I’ve taken the bus alone and I’ve gone grocery shopping alone, but it wasn’t weird because those were normal, or considered as acceptable almost. The first time I felt odd being alone was when I decided to go to the cinemas by myself. It wasn’t by choice – a friend had decided to change plans last minute, but although I was disappointed, I didn’t let the moment ruin my day and went on with the plans just without my friend. Now, you’re probably wondering… You know, you could’ve just ditched as well, right? Well, that was an option but I decided not to because that would mean I wasted my time, energy and money to travel to the nearest town for nothing.
I remember vividly going up to a self-kiosk to buy a ticket. It was A Simple Favor, starring Blake Lively and Anna Kendrick. I remember the time being 15:45 and the film was going to start at 16:15, I remember pacing around the lounge area. I couldn’t sit for long, I was too uneasy. I kept tapping my foot, going at the same pace as my heartbeat. At that moment, I felt vulnerable and aware. I was afraid someone I know might see me and think I’m weird for being alone. Unfortunately, someone I knew from school came by the cinema and happened to be in the same place as I did. I remember trying to conceal my identity by turning my back on them, head hanging low and distracting myself by being on my phone. To my worst luck, they still noticed me.
‘Hey, Uriel! It’s you!’ They greeted me. Awkward grin forms into my mouth as I wave them a small hello, I faintly greet them back. ‘So what movie are you going to watch?’ They had asked. I pointed to the big poster that was plastered at the corner, they looked over and then nodded. The most anticipated question arrived, ‘Are you with anyone?’ In a panic, I answered ‘yes.’ The lie tasted bitter in my mouth, then I tried to justify it in my head. Technically, I was. They just couldn’t make it. A smug smile quirks at the corner of their lips, they coo. I recall my eyes widening, trying not to panic even more. I immediately and politely disagree, ‘Oh no, not that way.’ I remember them laughing it off and then bidding their goodbyes, telling me to enjoy the movie as they winked knowingly.
The strange feeling doesn’t stop there. I was okay for a bit until I had to be sandwiched between two couples for an hour and fifty-nine minutes. I was conscious, overthinking whether people can tell that I’ve gone to the cinema by myself. It was only confirmed when I caught sight of a stranger looking at me, his eyes telling me he’s wondering why I’m sitting alone. Eyebrows scrunched up, not angrily but almost pitiful. Once the film was finished, I walked out of the cinema, feeling less agitated.
The area was peaceful. There is just something about the almost deserted high street and closed shops that gives off tranquillity. The sun was setting, I watched as the light started to dim, the dark chasing the sun around. The sky was clear that particular day and I could see the birds clearly flying by. The bus was less crowded too, just the way I liked it.
Despite the uneasy experience, from that day on, I started to like going out by myself. It didn’t have to be to the cinema, it could be sitting on the park bench while reading a book that seems to be taking too long to finish or it could be in a coffee shop, typing away homework as the soft smell of baking croissants fill the senses. At first, I was slightly confused as to why I’m enjoying it more than I expected, considering that I didn’t really have the best experience first-hand. I had only realised I was doing it more often when I was sitting by myself at the library. I remember looking up from the book I was reading as the thought crossed my mind, and it made me ponder for a little bit. I leaned back on my seat as I started to come to my conclusions.
I have come to terms that being alone isn’t weird or otherworldly, the society and media made us think it is. Being alone has a lot of benefits, one being: you can do everything on your own without having to rely on or wait for others. Although there is nothing wrong with hanging out with your friends and following an itinerary, it’s just that sometimes, doing something without the thoughts of others but your own is freeing. You (kinda) don’t have to be worried about the time when your friend is waiting for you and so on…
Secondly, being alone helps you get to know yourself a little bit better and will allow you to be the better version of yourself. I have also realised that being alone doesn’t only help you socially and physically, but mentally as well. Spending time alone increases your productivity and concentration, and gives your brain a chance to restart.
I know, sometimes being alone makes you feel lonely, but if you start to think about how doing many things alone is just the same as doing many things with your friends and family, then it will change your perspective. Doing things alone just helps you build confidence and independence.
Overall, the majority of people associate being alone with many things: loners, outcasts, weirdos. And a lot of people avoid being alone because they’re afraid that they’ll get lonely. Well, to reassure you, it is inevitable to feel lonely when you’re alone, but being alone acknowledges your deeper self, allowing yourself to get to know who you really are. And as Kelly Clarkson famously says, ‘Doesn’t mean I’m lonely when I’m alone.’