The Bravery of Being Alone
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Student Life

The Bravery of Being Alone

Sometimes solitude is terrifying, and that's okay.

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The Bravery of Being Alone
Stony Way, Mukumbura

Being the youngest of four kids growing up meant I was very rarely by myself. If we went anywhere, it was usually as a family and while I would play on my own I always knew that there was someone else around. It wasn’t much different in school- I never had trouble making friends or at least finding someone to talk to. In short, I had the capability to be alone if I wanted to, but I was also never short of other people when I wanted human interaction. That’s why when college came, I realized that I was terrified of doing things by myself.

I chose a college that was five hours away from everyone I knew and loved. It was a culture shock, but I made friends as well as I could within my classes and thought I would be okay. After a few months I realized that the entire time I had been there I hadn’t gone to a movie or out to eat off campus. None of my friends were close enough to invite somewhere, so I readied myself to go out by myself. To say the first time going to a movie alone was painfully awkward would be an understatement; I saw pity in the eyes of the guy who sold me my ticket, I felt like everyone was judging the girl sitting by herself in the theater, and I spent most of the movie focusing on all of these feelings instead just watching the movie. Looking back on it I realize that I was imagining all of the awkwardness, but in that moment I swore to myself I would never go anywhere in public alone.

The next year I transferred to a closer school, I made tons of friends and started hanging out with them outside of classes, the memory of that disastrous day by myself faded. It was at the ripe old age of 20 that I realized how awful and childish it was for me to avoid going places on my own. I decided I needed to get more comfortable with the idea and so began learning how to make situations less awkward. It started with baby steps; eating at the dining hall alone, going on jogs by myself, and other small things that normal people do on an everyday basis. I slowly felt myself being less awkward, I didn’t feel as anxious about being alone in public anymore and so one day I decided to face my fear of seeing a movie alone once again. I dressed up nicely, I ate in a restaurant by myself with minimal cringing, and then came the most daunting task I bought a ticket to see “Interstellar.” I settled into a seat surrounded by strangers and relaxed, throughout the entire movie I laughed, I cried, and I marveled at the story but not once did I think about how awkward it was to be sitting there all alone.

You may be asking yourself, “What is the point of this ridiculous story?” Well as silly as it was I genuinely feared doing things by myself in public, aside from things like errands or grocery shopping, and that’s largely in part to the way we view solitude in today’s society. When I tell people I’m 21 years old and don’t have a boyfriend I immediately get sympathy and reassurances that it will happen for me one day, which I appreciate but why do we treat being single as a kind of pity? When we see someone eating dinner alone our first reaction is to think something tragic has happened or that something is wrong with them, but why do we assume those things? I’m someone who has always appreciated her space, if I want to be alone I want to be alone but that translates differently when it comes to public spaces. As I’m typing this I’m pulling on a jersey to go to a hockey game for the first time on my own and I’m feeling nervous about sitting in the stands by myself, even with improvement the idea of going alone is daunting and will probably stick with me until the game distracts me from it but I cant let that nervous feeling keep me from experiencing life.

So if you are someone who has “alone in public” anxiety, you’re not on your own and it isn’t silly. We are predisposed to feeling judged for being alone but instead we should begin looking for ways to erase the stigma on it. We should begin telling people that it is okay to be alone sometimes; that there is nothing wrong with solitude, and that sometimes being by yourself is the best way to find out who you are.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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