Recently, I bought season tickets to my local performing arts center’s Broadway Tour series. When telling my family and friends—who all live in different states as I recently moved to this area—and talking about which shows I was most excited to see, I got the same question:
“Who will you be going with?”
And every time, I gave the same answer:
“No one. I just bought one ticket for myself.”
My family and friends all gave me similar, “Oh, okay…” reactions. My excitement to see Fun Home and Finding Neverland quickly faded. Why is no one else excited? Is there something wrong with going to the theater by myself? I contemplated returning the tickets and waiting until I met someone who was willing and excited to go with me.
From a young age, we are hard-wired to seek companionship in almost everything we do. From the preschool “buddy system,” to reality TV “celebrities” being unable to go to the doctor’s office without a friend/fellow cast member present (next time you watch reality TV, pay attention to the fact that they are never alone. It’s eye-opening, or at least it was for me), society tells us that we should never go anywhere, or do anything, alone. If we are caught in public without our friends or family, we are much more likely to be stared at or pitied. Why is spending time by yourself seen as a weakness and not a strength? Why do we let this “social taboo” stop us from doing things we really want to do?
When I did the Disney College Program at Walt Disney World, I was too insecure to go to the parks alone. Employees of Disney get into the parks for free, so you are able to go to the parks as much as you want. Unfortunately, most of your friends and roommates don’t have the same days off as you do, so bringing a big group to Magic Kingdom is much more difficult than when you plan a trip with your family. One of the biggest regrets I have from my College Program is that I was so worried about what other people thought about me going to parks by myself. “What will people think of me if they see me in line alone?” was a regular thought I had. Because of that insecurity, I missed out on some great experiences I could have had, like riding Expedition Everest at Animal Kingdom, or going on The Great Movie Ride over and over again.
It was after my College Program that I decided to not let fear or insecurity stop me from experiencing life. I started out small—for example, I began going to the movies alone or getting my nails done without a friend to be a buffer—and moved on to bigger events, like going to “A Conversation on Justice” with the lawyers from Making a Murderer (which, by the way, I highly recommend going to if they come to a city near you). With a little practice, the fear and anxiety that stopped me from doing things I really enjoy faded away.
Someone once told me that you could tell the strength of a person by their willingness to do things alone. It really is an act of self-care and, more importantly, self-love to do something completely selfish, regardless of what people think. If we stopped looking at spending time alone as a taboo and started looking at it as a gift to ourselves, we would all be better off.
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