I spend an inordinate amount of time by myself. I always have. Most of the things I like to do are completely solitary: reading, writing, watching TV, swimming laps, going to the gym, baking, karate. All of them are solitary activities at their hearts. There aren’t karate teams, even though you train in a group. And if you get too many bakers in one kitchen, you just get a big old mess.
But it’s not just these things. I go to concerts, movies, live theatre, shopping, and road trips alone.
At my old job as a kitchen hand, it was just me, the dishes, and the radio. The chefs would only really talk to each other because that was all they had time for until the kitchen closed.
Thing is, I am perfectly happy in my own company. I can spend days with no one to talk to except, well, you guys and whoever happens to be on FB messenger or Twitter when I actually deign to make myself “available”. It takes a lot for me to actually feel lonely. It’s what some people get confused about. There’s being alone and there’s being lonely. There is a massive difference.
In my last relationship, well my only relationship worth talking about, we were very different people. I am, as you may have guessed, an introvert. He is most definitely not. He could never really be alone. It was something I could never really grasp. I’d be in our room, studying my arse off, and he’d be perfectly fine in the other room with his mates playing video games or talking about whoever had pissed them off that day or whatever else it was they did. But once they left, and I was still studying, he’d come in and try and talk to me. I’d have my earphones in – no music playing, just blocking out the outside noise so I could concentrate – and piles of notes in front of me while I mouthed various psychological facts to myself. He’d walk in and try to engage me in conversation.
“Can’t you see I’m studying? I can’t really talk right now.” I’d say, time and time again.
He’d get offended and stalk out of the room, only to come back and try again. This would repeat time and time again until we were fighting and I would have to engage in order to try and make him realise that I wasn’t intentionally ignoring him. I was studying so that I could get into my next degree and become who I wanted to become. Through my stressed-out agitation, I could still see that he just didn’t like to be alone. And even then, that worried me.
You know those crappy, uplifting sayings people have to try and make you a better person? “Who’s going to love you if you can’t learn to love yourself?” and those kind of inane questions? They’re so obnoxious and sanctimonious and superior that most everybody switches off. Hell, I know I do. But there is some truth to the matter. If you can’t spend time in your own company, who else is going to want to? If you can’t be happy hanging out with you, then who else will be? Spending time alone can be healthy.
BUT, I circle back to my opening statement. I spend an inordinate amount of time alone. I actually don’t like being with other people all that often. I love my friends and I love hanging out with them. But I don’t know if I could be like the HIMYM crowd, or the F.R.I.E.N.D.S crowd. I need my space. I’ll hang out with people all day, or all night, or all week. But if I don’t get at least an hour to myself at some point to do whatever it is that I want to do, alone, I can get crabby. Usually all I want to do is read for a bit. Really, that’s all.
Sometimes I worry that I like my own company so much. Some days, I’ll stub my toe and give a strangled yell that comes out a little hoarse because it’s the first out-loud noise I’ve made all day. Or, I spend all day in my pyjamas because I don’t have anywhere to go, or anyone to impress.
But I worry because the whole “relationship” thing means being able to be alone with someone else, and to be perfectly happy doing so. You know those scenes in TV shows or movies where the couple is sitting in bed, with their separate books or magazines or laptops, and they’re both doing their own thing for a few seconds, then they look at each other and smile, or touch hands, or kiss each other, and then go back to what they were doing? That’s exactly the kind of relationship that I want. A relationship where both people are comfortable enough with each other to be alone together.
I don’t know, maybe it’s a defence mechanism I picked up at some point. I don’t think it’s a good idea for someone studying psychology to try and psychoanalyse themselves. I don’t actually mean to sound whiny or desperate, if that’s what’s happened. It’s just something I felt like writing about: the whole alone v lonely thing.