When my husband told me he was going to visit his sister this weekend, my first response wasn’t “Oh no, I’m going to miss you.” It was my brain whirring into action, thinking about where I’m going to take myself on a solo date tomorrow night.
This is a blog post about doing things by yourself.
A few weeks ago, the topic of solo dates came up with one of my seasonal coworkers. She’s a retirement-age, married woman, and she was sincerely appalled by the idea. “I couldn’t imagine going anywhere to eat by myself besides fast food,” and “That’s what I have a husband for!”
Let me back track to my childhood to give some context for why I love my solo time so much. I’m an only child. I have two half-brothers, but they’re significantly older than me and I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve actually seen them. I had friends while I was a kid, but I very much valued my solo play time. One time, I was playing hide-and-seek with a neighbor, and I got sick of it… so I just went and sat on my relatively private patio and… stopped playing.
I’ve talked before on here about how I was also very much an indoor kid. Sure, I had my warm summer weeks spent running around outside, but at the end of those days, I more-than happily retreated to my room, where I had notebooks and American Girl books and craft supplies. Even as an adult, when I visit my best friend, I’ll spend an evening just sitting quietly in my hotel room.
Traveling by myself is also something I’ve come to love. There’s the stigma that being alone in an unfamiliar place is terrifying or uncomfortable. I hate that stigma. I’m a smart traveler – I have my parents and our many trips to Toronto to thank for that – so I plan things well, and make sure I have plenty of transportation options available to myself before I even arrive in a new place. And, on a smaller scale, I love quiet Saturday mornings full of running errands or just driving around solo.
Now that I’m married, I don’t have to do those things alone anymore… but when I get the opportunity to spend even a few hours solo, I take it. My husband has family in Pittsburgh, and when he goes to visit, I march myself to one of my favorite restaurants, sit at the bar, drink too much wine, and order too much food. Usually, I start texting my best friends since they all live out-of-state, and before I realize it, I’m having as much fun as I would if my gang was with me.
But… here’s the beautiful part: they’re not with me. No one is. I get to create and curate for myself the exact evening that I want. I love my husband and my friends, but since I’m a person who struggles with anxiety, when I’m with them, I care exclusively about their experience. I’m sure 90% of the conversations I had with Scott while we were on our honeymoon were me asking if he was enjoying himself. I guess you could call that sweet, that I was worried if he was having a good time… but it became entirely too consuming.
So, when I had the chance to spend an evening in the Magic Kingdom by myself, I gleefully took it. I looped around the same path over and over because the lighting kept changing and I couldn’t take enough photos. I KNOW Scott would have been fine with my crazy meandering, but my anxious little brain would have felt bad and cut my paths short. I loved that evening so much that I’m actually planning a solo trip to Disney World for sometime next year!
If you’re reading this post and thinking about how sad that must be, or that you can’t imagine going on vacation, much less to dinner, alone, I challenge you to try it. Make sure your phone is charged, or bring along a book if that’s more your speed. Go somewhere you know you feel comfortable – hell, just go to Starbucks, deliciously alone – or, if you’re feeling adventurous, go to a new restaurant.
Take some time to sit quietly (read: stay off social media), and do what we used to do before smart phones. Take in the ambiance. Watch how the staff interacts with the customers, play “Guess the occupation” for other people there. Then, right before your brain goes completely crazy, shoot a text to a friend you’ve been meaning to catch up with, but just haven’t found the time. I’ve found there’s something really beautiful in clearing your head for a bit, in an otherwise social setting.
I’m so excited to enjoy my solo date tomorrow night… maybe I’ll see you across the bar, dear reader.