I came to the realization tonight that I’ve taken for granted my ability to be alone. Before now, I never realized what a gift it truly is.
During my sometimes daily, sometimes less often, Facebook scroll this evening, posts from some of the over-age-50, traveling-solo groups were in the feed. I joined these groups because I love seeing women—people in general—living their best lives. Plus, traveling vicariously seems to work quite well for me these days, and I relish in traveling along online, all over the world.
In reading the posts, I embraced the feelings the women were expressing and praised their courage, applauding them in every way. It was in those moments when I recognized that I’d taken for granted my ability to be alone—to dine out, travel, explore, join events, and more.
I remember my first flight as if it was yesterday, alone, to visit a friend and her family living in Virginia Beach. Twenty or so years old and had never flown before, there I was wedged between two elderly ladies when airplane food was good. (Still is, depending on what you choose, but that’s me.) It was memorable.
I remember my first time dining alone, when a friend had called the posh Boylston Street restaurant to leave a message for me that she had to cancel. There were no cell phones at the time, and reaching each other wasn’t easy. We relied on carrier pigeons and the such.
In that instant, I had two options: carry through with the dinner or go home because people might look at me funny because I was alone (how times have changed). Being one who loves a challenge, I carried through to the point that when the waiter asked if I wanted chopsticks, I replied, why not. To this day, I’m thankful to that man. I may not use them properly, despite lessons, but I use them well enough to transport the food to my mouth, and that, for me, is a victory each and every time.
Ironically, that was the same evening I was approached by a scout to sign on to a local modeling and talent school/agency. Saying yes did me well again because that day was followed by years of teaching, coaching, TV, and pageant experiences. I had the background, but my being in the right place at the right time was fortuitous. Wonderful memories.
I remember attending my friends’ wedding, invitation having arrived with no guest included, and I’d had to attend alone. That took some deep breaths, re-posturing of my shoulders, and a lot of mental composure—feigning confidence.
I recall taking myself out to a French restaurant in Annapolis, sitting uncomfortably next to a romantic couple who seemed more uncomfortable sitting next to me, and documenting my experience because writing was central to my being. On the shuttle back to the hotel, I met a raucous, fun couple who at first frightened me then became fast friends. We kept in touch for several years, having connected that evening and shared experiences, stories, and laughs.
These are just a few of the memories I have because of adventuring out on my own. The list is long, and the experiences are plentiful.
There are those who will raise an eyebrow, include you in their gossip, and exchange judgmental glances within their clique. You’ll be criticized, ridiculed, and poked fun at. Those people are usually those who don’t leave the border of their towns, don’t talk with anyone outside of their circle, and think they rule the world from their insular perch. How sad. Do you really care what they think or may say? They’ll be talking about someone else tomorrow. That’s how small minds work. Go live!
I’ve never been afraid to say yes but am petrified of saying no. I know that I may not be too proud of some things; taking risks is like that, and I have certainly made my share of mistakes. Yet, I know that I’d never be filled with regret if I take a chance. And I’m not. I only regret what I didn’t do—not what I did.
How thankful I am today because my cumulative experiences resulted in strength, confidence, and courage. Each one opened me up to the world and provided me with a wealth of experiences that I would have never had if I was afraid to say yes.
All of these solo experiences prepared me for years of corporate travel, and with that let me tell you, if you don’t know how to live alone, you won’t survive.
So to each of you out there learning how to live life alone—bravo! There’s so much to experience in this world, in this life; go make it happen! Don’t let anyone—even yourself—stand in your way.