Eating Alone, and other Singular Pursuits

DECEMBER 15, 2013
Photo Credit: Emily Long

Photo Credit: Emily Long

Editor’s Note: For any of you who visit Quarterlette often, you know our site is mostly devoted to stories from all of the ladies out there navigating their quarter lives. But there are some quarter life conundrums so undeniable that we couldn’t help but wonder if guys are experiencing this stuff too.  Guess what? They are. We hope you enjoy this story from Jaime about the stress surrounding doing activities by yourself.

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One of the perks of business travel is getting an opportunity to explore new cities – their restaurants in particular. I was recently in New York City, a city with no shortage of places or restaurants to experience. I decided to walk through Hell’s Kitchen figuring I would for sure find a good place to please my tummy. And, of course, I found one right away: it was packed, it had a good vibe, and looked just right.

Just as I was about to walk in I felt my heart freeze. My enthusiasm for the restaurant evaporated, and all I was left with was that god awful question: “Do you really want to go in there by yourself?”

I consider myself very comfortable with doing things alone. I will see movies by myself when none of my friends are interested, or take a book to the park and make a pleasant afternoon out of it, just me and Jose Saramago. Often I need that alone time. Taking time for myself helps me recharge, reflect, and relax. It gives me an opportunity to take care of myself so I can be in a better position to serve others. Alone time is, quite simply, sacred.

But there’s still this stigma around being alone in public. For whatever reason people are put off by seeing someone do things by alone. It’s like wearing a bathrobe during the day: it’s fine to do in your own home, but once you go outside you are given weird looks. This is exactly what I was feeling when I froze at the door –  like every person inside that restaurant was telling me, “Nah, don’t do it, it’s weird.”

As I walked away from that restaurant and a few others, I grew more and more frustrated at myself for letting what others would think overrule what I wanted to do.

One reason alone time gets so tricky is that we end up caring too much about everybody else, which completely defeats the purpose. We know what we want to do, because our gut speaks out loud and clear –I want to eat there right now, I want to go to that museum today. We hear it, but we give it secondary priority. We don’t want people to think we are odd, or stand out in a negative way, to the point where we wonder if maybe we should just get drive-through.

That social pressure is there, and that’s unfortunate, but we can’t control it. What is within our control is how, if at all, we listen to it. Who will we listen to first: everybody else, or that voice within? The former is loud, cacophonous, and hard to please; the latter is you – authentic, clear, and smart.

After a few more blocks of angry walking (heels digging into the sidewalk, arms crossed) I decided to just go with what felt right. I am hungry and I’ve earned a good meal and I want to eat there. I felt my heart freeze again once I got close to the door, but I didn’t care. That chill was not coming from within, so it wasn’t mine. I decided to listen to my very hungry gut, and guess what – my gut was very pleased afterwards. It was smart enough all along.

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4 COMMENTS

  • Jaime Zepeda 4 years ago

    Thanks for sharing!

    @thehimay

  • Great story, as a solo female backpacker I had the same concerns, however I wasn’t going to let that stop me enjoying the wonderful food and sights! In the end you realise everyone is so wrapped up in their own world, they hardly notice you at all.

    • Jaime Zepeda 4 years ago

      Hi Lisa

      It’s true! We over estimate how much other people are paying attention to what we do (the spotlight effect). It’s hard to snap out of that thinking, but once you do you can be much adventurous–like go backpacking! :)

      @thehimay

  • Jennifer Hacker 3 years ago

    It’s so funny that we all share this same insecurity over being seen alone. You would almost think at a certain point we’d all find comfort in the fact that everyone understands how we feel and we’d get over it. It’s always inspiring to hear stories from people who do just that. This article form Jaime was a great example. We have another from one of our contributors at The Single Diaries who went on a solo, self-led yoga retreat to Maui. If you want the extra dose of inspiration you can read her story here: http://www.thesinglediaries.com/lessons-learned/flying-solo/

    Jennifer Hacker | The Single Diaries