The most difficult part of learning to be alone is the boredom. The boredom comes more swiftly and intensely than the loneliness. It is the stain on your favorite t-shirt that never goes away despite the numerous all-purpose stain cures bought from the home shopping network.
When you’re alone day after day with no real obligations or commitments to take up most of your time you begin to lose the motivation to complete even your routine habits– making dinner, exercising, cleaning the dishes before they become a pile on the counter that looks at you guiltily. (I can’t be the only one right?)
I have applied to jobs, bought books, gone to public events unexpectedly inhabited by only couples completely alone (awkward), taken long ambling walks, found moments to take pictures of my surroundings, other moments to sketch or paint, and of course countless hours for tv that no longer interests me because I have watched every possible free option that is also an intelligent way to turn off your brain. Yet, even with this large amount of time-taker-upers, boredom still strikes, multiple times a day.
My couch feels more like a concrete slab I’m strapped to. My flat more like a burden that only seems to get dirtier despite there being fewer people in it than usual. This may be a bit melodramatic and maybe I am just not one of those living alone and happy people but my space doesn’t feel like a sanctuary for privacy (reads better when you use an English accent, try it) and calm. It feels more like an adorned shell–one that has everything I should need, but not what I actually do need.
So I’m learning how to live life alone temporarily. How to pretend that you have countless things to do when you’re friends that have a much fuller social calendar ask what you’ve been up to. “Yea that new exhibit at the Museum of London was astonishing.”(Actually it is still being created and is not yet open to the public, but I got to get a sneak peek through a hole in their blue construction hoardings.) “There was a kite competition this weekend in Hyde Park, so I spent a while there. It was such a beautiful day.” (That 5 year old girl was really given that 30 year old professional a run for his money. And was it just me or were their new ducks in the pond? Who has heard of a black and white speckled goose?)
I’m not sure if I’m bothered because I am “supposed” to have a full, raging late-night scene as a twentysomething or if I’m bothered because I actually want that. I don’t think its as simple as either-or. Of course I don’t want to be judged as the boring one that stays in, even though I’m pretty sure that’s been apparent since undergrad, but I also don’t want to be in my flat alone watching bad reality tv every night (I honestly think reality tv may be worse in the UK). Not thinking ahead and arranging social plans in advance has left me there a bit though.
Learning to be alone is about learning to be with yourself. To be able to confront yourself when all of the technology that has glued most of my generation to their phones 24/7 has gone to sleep (or out to the club) and go back to what you really enjoy doing. It took me 8 days of being alone to sit down and reflect on where I’m at. To stop filling my hours with chocolate (who can resist dark chocolate with sea salt?) and heavy make up’d reality stars. So far, I’ve found out that when left alone for long enough I start acting like a kid again–complete with random dancing, singing, yo-yo practising (oh yea I’m English now… that spelling just happened), spilling food or drink on myself, and quiet art making. I got another week or so of being alone in the new city; here’s to making something of it (besides learning the differences between the Liverpool, London, and Essex accents from reality tv shows–though that could eventually prove useful).