It's work to make friends. It's just as much work to make friends with yourself.
"It also takes just as much work to become friends with yourself. But I have also seen the alternative, and I know you have as well: a sour life, structured by resentment and regret." That honestly brought me to tears. The system we live in leaves so little room for choice, it's good to be reminded to take them where we can, that life is meant to be joyful and we have a right to try to make it so.
When Anne posted the call out for things we had done alone, I couldn't think of anything significant to share. But while reading today, I realized I needed to give myself credit for the list of things I've done alone. I saw the cliff divers of Acapulco alone. I've scoured every corner of the Metropolitan Museum of Art alone. Stayed in hotels. Traveled by train. I've been trying to remember who I used to be before the pandemic. Thank you, Anne, for the desperately needed reminder.
This is a really lovely piece, thank you. And you're right about chosen vs. unchosen solitude. I've done everything alone for many years now, and I'm pretty tired of it — people push me to travel alone, move to a new city alone, I've done all that — a lot. It's hard to still be learning why I felt the need to break off or avoid intimate and important relationships. I'm an introvert by nature, but not a hermit. And how I wish I'd had a mother to whom I could say "I need alone time." I did not have that. I remember when "introvert" entered the mainstream conversation in the early aughts, with an article in The Atlantic called "Caring for Your Introvert." I was delighted to discover that this was a normal framework and it was okay. I excitedly called one of my brothers and said, hey, I'm an introvert, this sounds like me! And his response was "Really? We all thought you were just a bitch." I've never forgotten it.
this post made me decide I need to learn how to drive. the idea of having the option to drive myself somewhere, anywhere I want, with no accountability to others... it sounds beautiful. I never learned because my relationship with my mom was rocky during the normal learning period, and I live in an area with good public transit, so I could get by. but I own a car now that my partner drives and I wish I could drive myself too.
Love this. Love doing shit alone. When I married my husband Ben, I told him one of the most important things to me was that every year, in perpetuity, we needed to go on trips alone — and that didn't include trips we went on with friends without each other. I love being in my own company so much, and that was a non-negotiable for me.
I've skied alone quite a bit; here's an old story. I had a long layover in Dubai on a sweltering June day, so I went skiing. In a mall. As mall skiing goes, it's pretty good: 200 feet of vertical, decent snow, maybe 28F. You rent ski suits with the other gear, so everyone looks alike. 'Everyone' was mostly groups of laughing (and falling) Arab teenagers. I did notice a couple of old white guys, who seemed to know how to ski, and I timed it so I ended up riding the lift and skiing with them a few runs. Norwegians. After skiing our fill, and after the sun was low enough to go outside, we went for dinner and drinks. They were both insistent that I visit their cabins in fjords, and while I haven't yet, the thought continues to appeal.
I relate to this essay so much.
I too did not start doing public things alone until college—I spent a semester in New York City and halfway through the semester realized I'd barely explored the city because I was always waiting around for others to be free at the same time and want to go to the same places.
I first started skiing alone when I lived vanlife (buslife, actually) for a few years and spent a huge majority of my time alone for almost 3 years.
Now, I live in the mountains and cohabitate with my partner and have found myself skiing alone far less than I did in years past. Just this week, I started prioritizing skiing alone again and have been getting up early before work to go to my local hill for an hour or two before the spring break crowds descend. The glory of a mostly-empty mountain, the quiet of the early morning, the joy of going really fucking fast as you say, the play of getting to ski wherever and however you want...it's so good. Reading your descriptions of skiing made my heart sing!
Thank you for empowering people, especially women, to do things alone if they want and to intentionally choose a life and prioritize the things they want and enjoy.
I'm a relatively new subscriber but really enjoying this corner of the internet that you've built :)
Nice new logo!! Re this,
"Now I am a person who can ski — not just a run, but an entire day — alone. And that’s meaningful to me, because as I age, I want to continue to be a person who does the things she wants to do, even and especially if no one will do them with me."
I picked up my high school delight of running again at age 51 and for the next six years ran more or less alone. When we moved here a year ago, I picked up with the Evanston Running Club and boy, was that an upgrade. It's not that I don't enjoy running alone (and frankly, my workouts are often so idiosyncratic that some days I absolutely must run alone), but integrating this solitary practice into the shared joy/suffering of a group has been a revelation.
I am lucky to have a partner that encourages solo time. Yet I’m tormented by the shitstorm (perceived or actual) that awaits when I return and an uncharacteristic, bewildered dog-circling-bed anxiety in the moment: Who am I? When do I like to eat? Exercise? Do I even LIKE yogurt??
Starting with an activity or time away from a group activity is really, really good advice.
I don't remember if I commented on last week's conversation or not, but it did inspire me to book a solo weekend trip for myself for the first time in five years to NYC! The hardest thing for me is that I feel guilty taking time for myself because time is so limited and precious - I want to spend as much time with family and friends as possible - but I often forget that it's important to become friends with myself, too!!!
I entered foster care alone. I went to church alone. I went to college alone. I moved to a new city alone. I hated those experiences, but I am so, so thankful I did them. I just turned 27, and now I am thinking of how I can return to doing new, hard things alone!
I love this piece. I was planning my first big post divorce solo trip when the pandemic derailed my plans. I’ve been really cautious about Covid, but I’ve been thinking about taking the trip this fall. I’ve been hesitating though, partly because of Covid and partly because of my anxiety and worrying about handling things on my own. This post really resonated with me and may be the push I need to finally book my trip! I also really relate to what another commenter said about trying to remember who I was before the pandemic. I used to be pretty independent and do things alone all the time, but I feel like the past few years of staying home my anxiety has increased and the image I have of myself has changed. I’m trying to slowly get back out there and start doing things again.
"spend enough time in one’s mind to recognize its actual cravings"
Thank you so much for this reminder of how much freedom there is in choosing our life, regardless of whether someone comes with us or not. I love choosing my movie / show etc without considering others and haven't done it for TOO long. This was the post that led me to subscribe & I look forward to hanging out here more 😊🙏🏻
I crave being alone with myself, as the partner of an extrovert and the parent of two extroverts, my solitude is rare. I try to claim it in small ways-- I'll do groceries with earbuds in, I'll take the dog to sniffspots on my own, I'll announce I'm taking a drive and tool around the backroads of the foothills and listen to whatever I want while my mind wanders. I've done hotel weekends alone, I've done day trips through the Cascades or to the Tulip Festival by myself, but it always feels like "I want to be alone" is received by my family as "I don't want to be around you". I DO want to be around my family, but nobody is going to enjoy visiting 10,000 tulips with me except for me. Nobody wants to stop and read all the roadside geologic history signs except for me. When I'm by myself I can do all the weird little things that I love-- listening to a podcast about planners, browsing the romance section at a used bookstore, trying to collect passport stamps from all the lodges in my local national park.
I recently bought a new car and wanted to take it out for a long drive. There are days when I drive into work, and I see the Olympics across the water, and I have the urge to just call out last minute, catch a ferry, and see where the road takes me. Yesterday, I planned to do that-- drive out that way, tool around, come home. But my husband was able to take the day off and offered to come with me, and then I feel like an asshole saying no. We had a great time, but man, if I'd been by myself, I would have taken a different route, I would have gotten home later, I would have eaten somewhere else.
The timing of this post is great. Next week is my employer's spring break, while my spouse is working and kid is in daycare. My plan already had been a nebulous "rediscover what I like to do" and now I feel even more empowered to do it on my own