You know what’s not fun to deal with during the height of a global pandemic? Feeling alone and heartbroken. All of my usual remedies were no longer an option. I couldn’t sit across from my friends in a loud pub where we’d inevitably end up going round in circles talking about where it all wrong, the entire night.
I wasn’t able to go out dancing until the silly hours of the morning, well past when everyone said they’d go home, just to distract myself from the misery of my own heart. And I couldn’t sob in my best friend’s flat whilst she handed me yet another cup of tea, telling me it’s going to be fine for the hundredth time. All the usual things I’d turn to in order to feel some semblance of calm and peace were no longer possible.
“I was never the type of person who could enjoy their own company or comfortably spend time alone.”
Instead, I had to spend a lot of time alone within the confines of my own four walls. To begin with, being alone was all I could think about. Huge, tough questions began to loom over me. Was this what I was destined for, spending my life on my own?
Days turned into weeks, which then turned into months, and being alone was still the main thought in my mind. My worst nightmare. My world was starting to open up again – seeing friends was possible – but I knew there was something I needed to work on. I was never the type of person who could enjoy their own company or comfortably spend time alone.
With all of my close friends being in long-term happy relationships, it became impossible not to focus on how much better I thought life could be if I had someone else to share it with. Not only did I not enjoy it, I had a deep and very real fear of it. I didn’t want to have to sit with myself and I definitely didn’t want to be alone with my thoughts.
“Would people judge me for going out for a coffee or to dinner alone? Would they think I’d been stood up by a date? That I was strange?”
I’d walk into coffee shops, bars, and restaurants and see people sitting on their own and be awash with envy. I was deeply jealous of them and so very ashamed of myself. I wished I too could just wake up and decide one day to go out and do whatever it is I wanted to do, without having to ring up a friend to come along with me.
There was always a palpable sense of freedom in people simply doing whatever they wanted without it being dependent on someone else. It was a freedom I was itching to have for myself.
And so, after a string of failed and empty dates earlier this year and the pearly words of wisdom from a close friend, I made the active choice to spend the rest of the year carving out time to just hang out with myself. No matter how much it terrified me. I won’t lie, it was initially a choice filled with sadness, loneliness, and anxiety. Would people judge me for going out for a coffee or to dinner alone? Would they think I’d been stood up by a date? That I was strange?
With the worries of what people would think flying around my mind, I convinced myself to take the plunge one Friday and took myself out on a solo date. After a spell of self-neglect, especially when it came to my appearance, I made the effort to properly get dressed and jumped on a bus to one of my favourite cafes.
“I was overwhelmed with just how at peace I felt – a feeling that’s been missing from my life for a long time.”
Book in hand, I asked for a table for one and ordered some lunch. And there I stayed for the remainder of the afternoon. The first hour was definitely spent trying to suss out if people were casting judgement, but they weren’t. People were just going about their day, as I was.
From then on, each time got a little easier and I felt more relaxed and at ease with myself. Solo trips to coffee shops turned into solo walks that became solo dinners. Doing things I love by myself has given me a newfound joy that I never thought would be possible for someone who avoided being alone like her life depended on it. In fact, I was overwhelmed with just how at peace I felt – a feeling that’s been missing from my life for a long time.
It’s also given me the much needed realisation that I don’t need another person in order to do the things I enjoy. I’ve learned such a valuable lesson: the search for love and connection shouldn’t mean that you’re no longer your own person or that you shouldn’t do things alone. Now, if I want to go see a film at the cinema or a band I like is playing in town, I know I’m perfectly happy doing so on my own. More than it being a possibility, I actually enjoy hanging out with myself. She’s actually pretty great.
Shahed Ezaydi is the Deputy Editor of Aurelia. @shahedezaydi