Lately I’ve been on a bravery kick. I’ve been taking myself on dates—going to dinner or lunch by myself, or taking myself to the movies alone. Sometimes, I’ll wander around an antique store, or enjoy a leisurely stroll through the Farmer’s Market. I’ll admit that I enjoy doing these things by myself. I love the freedom to spend a little extra time chatting with the woman who makes my favorite yogurt, or take several circles around that vintage chair that’s calling my name. I’ve made peace with being by myself, and much of the time, I enjoy it.
But I’ve noticed that sometimes I’m so focused on being okay on my own that I forget that it’s also lovely to do things with other people. Sometimes I buy into the societal idea that to be single is to be alone, to never have anyone to do things with—but that’s simply not true.
A few weeks ago, I found out that a local dealership was offering free admission to a nearby theme park for drivers of their cars. Getting on a roller coaster and holding on for dear life is a quintessential summer activity for me. As I pondered it, I could already feel the wind in my hair and smell the funnel cake.
I’ll go alone, I thought. I’ll be brave and drive for an hour and a half and do it all by myself. Maybe I’ll even write about it.
But later I was chatting with my brother, who would be visiting from out of town around then. When I mentioned it, he told me that he and a longtime family friend of ours would like to come along as well. I liked the idea of my solo romp through the park—cutting quickly to the front of the lines—but I like my brother more. We began to plan.
On the drive up, the three of us took turns sharing songs we liked, turning the volume up loud and letting the wind in through the sunroof. Together, we navigated the process of redeeming my free ticket and they waited for me as I changed into my swimsuit for the water park portion of our day.
Drifting on the lazy river, I knew I could have done it alone. I could have driven out to the park, figured it all out myself, and been fine. But surrounded by two people I like, I had to admit, it was a lot of fun. Once we started standing in line for roller coasters—and I began to appreciate how nice it was to have someone to talk to during those long lines, I was even more glad I’d come with company.
I’m learning that being single is all about being kind to yourself and paying attention to what you need. There are times when a seat for one in a movie theater (or a Parks and Rec marathon on Netflix by myself) sounds great, and then there are nights when I call a friend and ask if she wants to catch a movie with me. Sometimes, there is nothing more delightful than sitting alone at the bar at one of my favorite restaurants, chatting with the bartender from time to time, and sometimes I like to bring a friend. It depends on the day, it depends on my mood, there are no hard and fast rules.
I don’t want to be so caught up in being self sufficient that I forget that it’s okay to need meaningful connection with other people, or to want someone to keep me company. I don’t need a boyfriend to have people to spend time with, friendships and family relationships are also very important and still require cultivation to keep them healthy.
Now, when I consider whether to do something alone, I’m trying to ask myself if that’s what I want, or if I’m afraid of rejection—of not finding someone to go with. It’s a risk to ask someone else into my plans. I have to be vulnerable when I let people know that I don’t always like being alone. Not everyone understands, but most people get it, even if they are at a different place in their life. When I’ve been honest about my desire to spend time with people, much of the time they do everything in their power to make it happen.
The times when I choose to be alone give more weight to the time I choose to spend with people. Both are sweeter because the other is in my life. Sometimes I’m on my own, and other times I’m not, but all of the time, I’m choosing myself, listening to my own needs. To me, that is true self-sufficiency.
Cara Strickland writes about food and drink, mental health, faith and being single from her home in the Pacific Northwest. She enjoys hot tea, good wine, and deep conversations. She will always want to play with your dog. Connect with her on Twitter @anxiouscook.