Alone, Not Lonely

This weekend I found myself surprisingly alone. My suitemates had family in town or were visiting people elsewhere; friends were out of town or at work related events and couldn’t hang out. And although my weekdays feel long—filled with working and errands and running to catch subways—my weekends are a time almost uncomfortably free of commitments and plans. To fill up the emptiness, I usually plan and commit the weekend to death, but now there was literally (and I actually mean literally) no one for me to hang out with—short of me going out to meet new people, and I’m just too lazy to do that.

So I was alone. This isn’t really a new experience for me. As the latchkey only child of a single mother, I spent a lot of time alone growing up—not unpleasantly. While I had friends at school, I still loved making up adventures with imaginary friends for the hours between school and my mother’s return home from work, or those weekends alone while she was at the office.

I even used to make myself into a kind of imaginary friend and would pretend there was another Hazel who was with me all the time. She was both part of me and separate from me—what better friend could there be? Who could understand me more completely?

And though I filled my life with these imaginary relationships, I didn’t always yearn for the company of others. Alone meant that I had control over myself completely; I didn’t have to worry about anyone else or what they wanted to do or what they expected me to do.

Slowly as the years passed, my imaginary friends died out. I grew up, gained more independence, and found myself spending most of my time with actual people. When I was alone I was sleeping or working on some sort of academia and didn’t need to be entertained the way I used to.

Today was the first time in a while I was faced with a day of solitude (more or less). I wasn’t daunted by the prospect of being alone. I still managed to plan the day to death with things to do (after all I’m in New York) and set out feeling confident about flying solo.

And probably because I was alone, I began to notice little things. Like how I’d see a velvet leopard print photo album cover shaped like a shirt in a dollar store and I’d want to take a picture of it and send it to someone to share with them the pure ridiculousness of the product. Or I’d be walking down the street and wising I could multitask to the point where I could successfully walk and look something up on the internet on my phone that I’d been wondering about. And to be honest, for a lot of the day I was texting various people.

Yes, this actually exists.

So was I really alone? And am I really as comfortable being alone as I previously thought I was? Why do I feel this need to share my life immediately with others, and why do I always feel like I need to be doing something productive? I have a feeling that these two needs are somehow connected, and that secretly I’m not comfortable alone with my thoughts, and instead compulsively need to be communicating with someone or unnecessarily looking up restaurant reviews on my phone as I walk.

As technology continually improves and makes the world even smaller and more connected, are we losing the ability to be comfortable alone—not lonely necessarily—and maybe even bored? And is the eliminated of aloneness a bad thing necessarily?

I’m not sure. But despite my subconscious efforts to connect to the rest of my world today, I still really enjoyed my time “alone” (for all intents and purposes).  Because really, in a city like this, how alone could I ever really be?