This series of my rambling on has so far proven pretty useful, to me anyway, for taking a look at acute aspects of my state of mind since moving away from my hometown Cleveland, Ohio and beginning a new chapter of life here in Austin, Texas.
Being alone is something i have struggled with on-and-off since arriving here. A broader perspective is that it’s something i’ve struggled with my whole life to some extent. This morning i read a thing on my Facebook feed that led me to think more about the situation.
If you want to be strong learn to enjoy being alone
Today feels like the perfect time to have seen something like that. As a friend recently pointed out to me, i’ve tended to seek out surrounding myself with people perhaps to a fault. Not a large number of people, mind you – i’m very choosy about who i share time with as well as having a high personal bar for those people. i could not tell you the particulars of that bar; it’s more feeling than a quantitative measure.
Many of the choices i’ve made, decisions i’ve come to or actions i’ve taken in life were contingent on the inclusion of other people.
i would not have sold all my stuff and took a one-way trip to Europe on my own. Writing and trying to sell spec screenplays, failing, moving to California, then back to Ohio and deciding to shoot a feature length film is not an undertaking i would have embarked on by myself. Even going back to finish college is likely something i wouldn’t have done if i weren’t at least motivated by a desire to improve the quality of life for the relationship i was in at the time.
In contrast to those and countless other examples, my time here in Austin has been 100 percent a solo instance. That’s not to say i don’t rely on communication with friends and family elsewhere for moral support or to stave off times of conversing solely with my cat.
There is no one to help out around the house, to bounce ideas off of, to make laugh, to pick where to eat. i have no editor or professor to dole out assignments. A familiar locale isn’t down the street, no recognizable places or faces to retreat to for a sense of belonging somewhere.
i’d be lying if i said these things and more don’t get to me from time to time. It is an unfamiliar situation for me in just about every way.
Some advantages come along with this scenario, though.
When i am out, i’ve found that both myself and others are more chatty with one another, which makes sense. If you’re out with a friend, you’re primarily engaged with them. The opportunity for strangers to interact with you is lessened. And, at least for me and my previously mentioned choosiness in who to share time with, if i am with one of the chosen few, i’m probably not paying much mind to others who might wander into my orbit.
You really get to learn more about yourself being by yourself, quite a beneficial circumstance. For one thing, i’ve gotten a much better idea what sorts of interests i have and activities i enjoy, left to my own devices. Barring the restrictions of having a full-time job, my time is my own. This has yielded a few revelations.
i don’t like biking as much as i’d led myself to believe. Once i got my first car when i was 16, i left bicycles behind until my 20s, when i was cajoled into the hobby of trail-riding by – you guessed it – another person. That was pretty fun, except i did not have any interest in the extreme version of this (like going off the trail and down steep, underbrush-covered ravines and the like). As my biking buddy put it back then, “you just have to be okay knowing you’re going to wipe out and get hurt,” or something to that extent. But i was not okay with that! Cruising along the beaten path, feeling accomplished for pedaling up a particularly steep incline, that was satisfactory for me.
Once or twice since those days, i’ve gotten myself a bike with every intention of doing it more seriously – for health and exercise if not purely for fun. Right now in my little apartment i have a bike that is largely unused. When it comes to mobility for fun and health, i much prefer walking. That goes for running too by the way – not into that. Nope, i like a nice walk around the neighborhood or, ideally, through a picturesque park. Last week i visited Zilker Park on the recommendation of a colleague and had a blast strolling around for several hours.
Without an agenda of either time, destination or rate of travel, i’ll talk a walk. Walking around downtown metro areas is tied with parks (compared to, say, suburban residential neighborhoods). That’s my next day-off excursion, to head to downtown Austin in the morning, park the car and spend the day walking around to see what i discover.
Here in Austin, i’ve gotten to indulge my love of tabletop gaming, big time. There are tons of gamers here!
Until very recently, i had a nice regular thing going every Saturday afternoon through the Dungeons & Dragons Adventurers League, which is the official organized play system. Several years ago at Gen Con, when D&D 5E was not yet officially released, i participated in a Ghosts of Dragonspear Castle session that, looking back now, formed the base from which the current AL evolved.
Unfortunately, a new manager at my job revamped the schedule when he started, so my Saturdays are no longer free. This is a bummer. At first, i was mighty steamed since my Saturday gaming has been my only real socializing since moving here. But, i am trying to be more positive about things so i look at it as an opportunity to explore more and different things in my new city when i have time off.
All that being said, i’ve got the tabletop gaming bug more than ever thanks to a few months of regular playing. In fact, in some ways it’s soured my interest in video gaming; no current video game still can match up to the appeal of taking a seat at a gaming table with other people and crafting your own epic stories and characters together. The most disappointing thing not being able to attend is that one of the AL DMs is running a static campaign that i was really enjoying.
With any luck, i can find a regular gaming group that gets together at a time and day i am able to join. Alternatively, i’ve been trying to find people at my work to form a group with. We all have the same odd hours so hopefully i’ll have some luck there.
Now, as is my modus operandi this post is straying into too-long territory. The final thing i’ll get into as regards learning to enjoy being alone is the freedom of living without expectations, both from myself and others. While it is of course always a matter of choice what one does with one’s time and lifestyle, there can nevertheless be stumbling blocks to making changes to how, why, when and what one does.
Being alone removes some of those roadblocks, though. At least, that’s how i’m approaching things lately. In other words, nothing i do is going to seem uncharacteristic to the people in my life because outside of my co-workers who barely know me to begin with, there is no body in my life at this time.
Coming to that conclusion, which maybe is a no-brainer for some, has already brought about some improvements.
i am trying to live more instinctually. If i have an inclination to do something, i’ll do it instead of mentally making pros and cons lists or otherwise trying to quantify a decision.
In the morning (yes, it’s still morning, barely) when i wake up, i get right up and out and start the day with a yoga routine. The past me would have thought it was silly, or cliche, or felt awkward trying to do the movements that my out-of-shape body struggles with. But who cares? i’m at home alone. And wow, what a difference! Even the 15-20 minutes i spend uncoordinatedly moving around has relieved a heck of a lot of tension, both physical and mental. Afterwards, i’ll go jump in the pool for a bit and then lay outside in the sun. That serves multiple functions, like putting some color in the night owl/hidden indoors lifestyle skin tone i’m trying to move away from. Also, it’s nice to relax, not think about anything and let thoughts and stresses melt away.
Stresses like, am i doing the right things for my career? Should i be striving to do more freelance journalism work? What can i do to get more ahead? How should i be spending my time instead of with <insert any activity i might be doing>?
The list goes on…except it hasn’t been lately. i’m only me, doing what my instincts tell me. Anyone whose been hanging around The Long Shot long has seen it change quite a bit and these days it’s been much more personal than ever. There’s probably some conceit in that, thinking whatever i might have to share about myself is somehow of interest to anyone else. i could just as easily keep a private journal. But if i’m honest, there’s something different about putting these sorts of things out there that helps me stay honest.
At the end of the day, no matter what sort of writing i choose to do, i can only hope that there is truth in it to share.
How about you? Do you enjoy being alone? What lessons have you learned from time on your own?