Suddenly finding yourself alone is odd.
Context: As of Monday, my boyfriend and I have (begrudgingly) been hurtled back into long-distance. The last 3ish months of being able to see each other nearly every day, to catch up on tv shows and go on dates just because, went by wonderfully. And we knew he’d be getting sent back across the country for work eventually, even if we didn’t anticipate it happening so suddenly.
The good news, of course, is that it won’t last forever — right now the estimate is about 6-8 weeks. But almost 2 months apart still sucks. Plans got put on hold, adjusted, or canceled entirely. Even video calls — a staple mode of communication for our first 4.5 years of long-distance — won’t frequently be an option. I’m not stoked.
Even for someone who enjoys time alone, having copious amounts of time to oneself can be not just boring, but stifling. Hence today’s topic: being alone in a good way.
For the record, I’m not here to say that being alone is the way to go 24/7. I spent more than a month almost constantly alone a couple years ago — don’t need to do it again. But sometimes we surround ourselves with people, or other distractions like tech, because we don’t know how to be alone. And for emerging adults as well as everyone else, it’s a good skill to develop.
These are some of the best ways I’ve found to make being alone a positive experience:
Take yourself on a date. It doesn’t have to be a nice dinner, and it definitely doesn’t have to be expensive. Go to a movie, walk to the park, cook a favorite food. Last night I went to go see a movie I’d been looking forward to, and even when I don’t have to be alone I’ll often plan occasional day or half-day trips to just go do stuff I like without having to worry about anything else.
Hobbies, hobbies, hobbies. I read, crochet, and whittle. And when I’m unable to spend time with other people, they’re a good way to make my time feel well-spent. I promise it beats scrolling through social media feeds for hours on end (which I have also done).
Break a sweat. Exercise is good for you (obviously), but it’s also a good thing to do alone that isn’t as introspective as some of the other options. Plus your body will thank you.
Take a drive. You can pick a place to go, or just a direction. When I have extended stretches of time alone I try to head places that are outside, like walking trails or the beach if I can. But if that doesn’t work (or even on the way there), taking a drive can be a good way to clear your head or just pass time.
Try something new. Go to a new restaurant you’ve been eyeing, try to learn a new skill, or watch something you haven’t gotten around to yet.
Sleep. You think I’m kidding. Time alone generally means fewer obligations, and going to bed on time is a good idea, contrary to our collective habit of terrible sleep schedules.
Be quiet. When we’re around other people, we’re usually talking. And talking is good, but too many of us aren’t comfortable with quiet. If you’re alone, there’s no obligation to fill the airspace, so practice embracing the opportunity to let life speak for itself.
If you’re stuck in your head, it’s okay to not be alone. Learning how to be alone is important. Forcing yourself to be alone can be unhealthy. When I spent that month alone, I began spacing out my errands so I would at least see some part of civilization most days, even if it was less efficient. Trust your gut, and if being alone isn’t what you need, find a friend to FaceTime or call your parents or go to a shopping center so you at least aren’t fully by yourself.
I’m trying to plan for all of those things in the next several weeks. My roommate is awesome and we’ve been hanging out, and I have plans with a few friends in the next week or so. But I’ll keep taking myself to the movies, have upped my workouts, am ramping up my hobbies, and am trying to plan some small solo trips for weekends. The point isn’t just to pass the time, but to do it in a way that allows you to be your own company.