To learn the art of being alone

Its raining outside and I am sitting on the sofa, drinking tea and reading old guardians. This blissful idyll will not last for long as I mean to head out into the rain and visit one of my favourite places- le bibliotheque and recommence my temp job searching. More on that later. However I was prompted to write a blog post in reaction to an article I just read: The article is about the rise of people in the UK living on their own and features Colm Toibin, Zane Lowe and Esther Rantzen amongst others talking about their experiences living on their own. The article is clear that living on your own does not necessitate being lonely and the benefits for those that choose to live this way outweigh living with someone else- ordering take away in the small hours; writing uninterrupted; being surrounded with lots of personal momentoes and so on.

One of my life goals is to understand how to spend time on my own without freaking out quietly in my head. I can spend hours reading happily on my own but when left on my own in the house sometimes find myself twiddling my thumbs with white noise in my head, feeling that I should be doing something but not exactly sure what. I am a true extrovert in that I’m motivated by being around other people- if I have a plan to meet someone or someone comes over I feel normal and the day has not been wasted, but in the absence of those plans, I wander around the house, smoking, snacking and feeling a bit uncomfortable unless I have ample reading or TV to distract me. Don’t get me wrong, occasionally I need some quiet time, sometimes I’m quite happy when I get home and no lights are on- I can chill out and not talk; I sometimes quite like being in my room and hearing the noise of the house around me, knowing that the others are there, it feels quite comforting sometimes.

How much of my discomfort is derived from my upbringing? I was raised as an only child by one grandparent for nine years, and always wondered what it would be like to have siblings; then over the following ten years I lived with four younger siblings where I spent a fair amount of time avoiding them! I lived with friends before coming to university and since then have shared a house with friends. But living on my own? I could do it, but I would not want to. I feel that my life is enriched more by sharing it with other people. Is this a character flaw that I would not want to live alone- ever? I wonder about it sometimes, especially as I have lived with very independent friends that have traveled extensively on their own; in particular I have struggled to understand how certain friends go cycling and camping on their own in the countryside- haha no names! Its not the activities that they peruse that confuses me but that they are equally happy to do these things with or without others. I have holidayed alone but would be much happier to go with someone else!

There is a talk on at the School of Life on exactly this topic: and I hope to be able to go and gain a new perspective. Part of my motivation for wanting to go to Brazil or somewhere this year is to challenge myself- to learn how to be alone in a foreign country for longer than two weeks. Maybe I should start smaller- maybe with camping on my own which terrifies me but it does not tempt me in the way going somewhere hot does! Nonetheless I mean to learn this year the fine distinction of being alone and not feeling lonely. Any tips or suggestions would be very appreciated!

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