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Doing things by yourself is

Doing things by yourself is a highly underrated activity. It's funny that American culture embraces individuality, but at the same time shuns solitude. We always have to be doing something with other people, it seems. If we're not, we need constant stimulation to distract us from the fact that we're alone: radios in our cars, TVs at the gas pump, headphones while we're walking, the Internet at home, and cell phones if all else fails. Being alone is perceived as a condition you find yourself in, not a choice you would ever consciously make.

Don't get me wrong, I am one of the most hypersocial people I know. I seek the company of others all the time. In fact, I'm usually the one organizing large groups of people and making them do things together. But there are times when being alone, or doing things alone, is the greatest. I love taking myself to movies. Like on a date. I buy myself as much popcorn as I want, with topping and no extra salt. (Note to anyone in the Twin Cities: the best popcorn and topping is at The Lagoon and Uptown theaters.) It's great to go to the theater and not worry about someone else being late, or talking to you in the theater (one of my BIGGEST pet peeves), or not feeling like shopping with you afterwards.

My other favorite is Sunday morning breakfast. I generally prefer The Egg & I for this activity, because they have a counter. I can sneak past the hordes of people waiting for their tables and look for a spot at the counter to open up. The longest I've ever waited was today, which was about 10 minutes. Then I just drink my coffee, eat my breakfast, leaf through remnants of the Sunday paper people have left behind...whatever. It's so damn enjoyable.

I won't lie: the doing-stuff-alone thing is hard to get used to. Movies and dining are not something that many people want to do alone, and it does take a while to get used to the feeling. Another thing is getting "caught" doing something alone. People sometimes get weird about it, like they feel like they should invite you to sit with them at the movie, or the restaurant. It's funny. You can see them actually feeling sorry for you right before your eyes.

It's coming up on one year now that I've been in this apartment. This is the first time I've ever lived alone, and I was really worried about it. I thought I'd be lonely, but I'm not. I feel like I'm getting better at being alone. Without the TV on, or the radio, or a book. Just hanging out with my own thoughts every once in a while. Like I said, don't get me wrong: I watch TV and listen to the radio and read and lurk on the Internet as much as the next person, but I'm getting to the point where I choose for those things to be present. I've discovered the difference between people who always have something in the background without even thinking about what they're doing, and those who turn something on or pick something up consciously, with the purpose of watching it, or listening to it, or reading it.

So yeah. Being alone. It's the greatest. Except on nights like tonight, when I can't sleep because I'm agitating over what I want to be when I grow up, and wondering if I'll ever grow up, and remembering that my 10-year high school reunion is this summer, and that I'm not the famous minx I'd like to be at this point in my life, and what is the meaning of life, anyway? It would be nice to have someone around to rub my back and talk softly in my ear and tell me nice lies that would put me to sleep. I built a fake person out of pillows, because that sometimes works, but that's not helping. Plus, I'm getting a cold or something. My throat feels like sandpaper. I wish pillow man could make me some tea.

Posted May 6, 2002 12:40 AM