Growing up, I grew accustomed to a full house with family dinners every night. I’m a middle child, sandwiched between two sisters, whom my mom referred to as my built-in best friends. The three of us were always going someplace or doing something together.
Then, being alone was a luxury in a house always bustling with people. Now, it’s the most terrifying part of getting older.
This past summer, I jumped head-first into adulthood. My parents sold our childhood home and relocated to Florida.
I suddenly went from swing sets and suburbia to my first apartment in what felt like seconds.
My mom was no longer a few rooms away from answering my cooking questions and my dad was several states away from the spider tormenting me in the shower.
Worse than all of the newfound responsibility, I had no one to drag to the events and activities that I love.
For the first time in my life, I was truly alone — and it was stifling.
Instead of going to the movie I so desperately wanted to see or spending the day thrift shopping, I sat home alone out of fear of being judged by strangers.
But through this process, I realized I’ve often surrendered my autonomy for societal conformity. I’ve missed concerts from my favorite artists and lost out on free tickets to sporting events, all because I had “no one to go with.”
One morning, laden with intense pancake cravings, I decided that today was the day I was going to eat alone at a restaurant.
Just the idea of asking for a “table for one” was enough to form a pit in my stomach,
anchoring me down into my chair. But the idea of dessert for breakfast was enough motivation to start driving towards my favorite diner.
By the time I worked up the courage to walk inside the restaurant, it was already 3 p.m. I was one of three customers in the establishment. As a safety measure, I brought my schoolbag with me to pretend I was doing work if at any point I felt staring. But that point never came.
I was immediately shown to a table in the corner, not sensing any judgment from the waitstaff. With headphones off and menu in hand, I ordered my full stack of choco-banana pancakes with confidence.
Three cups of coffee later, I left the restaurant with proof that I could be my own company. On top of that, I made a new friend: the waitress who’d served me. Instead of falling into old habits and keeping my head down, I carried on a conversation with someone I never would’ve spoken to had I been dining with a group.
On the surface, sitting alone in a Denny’s booth doesn’t sound like much of an accomplishment, but it was life-changing for a socially dependent college student.
Next time there’s something I want or need to do, whether it’s grocery shopping or attending a speaker series event on campus, I’ll be equipped to go in alone.
In no way am I suggesting you become a recluse who eats in solitude, but I do implore you to embrace being alone instead of holding yourself back from things you want to do just because you have “no one to go with.”
Whether you’re a freshman who hasn’t made friends on campus yet, or someone with an interest not shared by anyone in your circle, don’t let the fear of being judged stop you from going to events you care about.
Alex Olen is an opinion editor and be reached at email@example.com