Alone in a crowd

Reviewing day-to-day activites alone

We’ve all felt the toll of the boredom, the brain fog and the slow descent into madness that lockdown had on us. During this time, we found ways to entertain ourselves, especially through distractions from the real world. Whether through zoom get-togethers. Netflix shows over video calls or being sucked into the void of social media, we learned how to be alone together. To avoid complete social isolation, we latched onto anything to keep ourselves afloat. In short, quarantine truly has changed what it means to be alone. 

Why then, is there still such a stigma behind spending time alone in public? Seeing a stranger dining by themself at a table for two might elicit thoughts of pity or judgement. “I wonder if that person is lonely?” “Maybe their lack of company says something about who they are,” you might think. Maybe, these thoughts derive from a place of genuine empathy. Or, they may come from a place of envy. In reality, it is likely a combination of all the options, stemming from the internalized fear of truly being alone. 

To face this fear, Crier staffers decided to challenge them head on by doing tasks and activities by ourselves. We wanted to see just how anxiety-inducing doing things alone is, and to reassess how to cope when these fears arise. We wanted to learn to live in the present within ourselves.

Eating Alone

I’ve never considered eating alone, but during my MRT one day I gave it a try.  I decided to experiment and go to the Chipotle in Munster alone. When arriving there, I put on my mask and waited in the long line. Approaching the counter, I knew exactly what I wanted. I decided to get a burrito bowl and when ordering it is always so hard to hear me behind the divider, especially with a mask.

I sat down with my bowl  and thought about what I needed to do for school. While I was sitting alone, I felt awkward so I compulsively reached for my phone, I mindlessly scrolled through Instagram for a bit before setting it down to watch the clouds from my seat. I realized two other people were eating alone like me, so it made me a little more comfortable about being there. I didn’t have a friend there to reassure that no one was looking at me, as they were just minding their own business. I would recommend trying it even though it does seem awkward. In the end, it’ll show you that this is a normal thing. Going out to eat alone should be an activity that we normalize, rather than see as unusual. It allowed me to clear my mind and gave me some time alone, so I will definitely be doing this again in the future.

Running Errands 

A few months ago, I got my drivers license. Since then, I rarely go driving, in part because I don’t have a car, but also because I’m terrified of being out in public by myself. I’m a few months away from being 18, and going to college will kickstart my adult life. As such, I’ll need to be self sufficient, even if that means going out of my comfort zone.

To start out, I decided to use my dad’s car and spend the day doing errands. After starting the car and backing it out of the garage, I looked over to the passenger side. Rather than finding myself face-to-face with a concerned parent critiquing me on my driving technique or a sibling clutching the grab handle for dear life, I found myself staring into the cold and barren seat. I shuddered, turned back and gripped the steering wheel a little tighter. 

My first stop was to go to Aldi to pick up a few groceries. I’ve been there a million times, but this was the first time I had gone on a solo trip since the store is too far from me to bike or walk on my own. Seeing dozens of people in a crowded area activated my fight-or-flight response since I’m pretty paranoid about staying safe. Being there took me back to the first time I had stepped into a grocery store at the beginning of the pandemic. A lot of that involved being in sheer terror of spreading or contracting a virus. All this to say, I was having some pretty intense thoughts for it to just be a short grocery trip.

It was honestly a weird experience. If there had been someone with me, I’d definitely feel more comforted knowing that my worries were really just all in my head, and that I was going to be okay. I was alone though, so I had to comfort myself. I learned that part of being mature is learning how to push myself, and know that it’ll just get easier as I go along.

I ended my day at a park after picking up some coffee. Part of me didn’t want to be there, because I could count a hundred more productive things to be doing in that moment. But learning how to be an adult means learning when to take a break and learning to be in-tune with oneself. I sat and watched the clouds go by for a while. I realized that since we’re all so relatively small in our universe spending so much time worrying about what others think of us is pretty obsolete in the long run. 

Bike Riding Alone

When I’m on my bike, I love how the sun warms me up from the harsh wind as I look at all the houses around me. For the past few months and especially in quarantine, this feeling has become a part of my average day. Between the warm weather and the want to get outside, I have turned to bike riding. Even though I go alone, I still manage to turn it into a meaningful activity.

Ever since quarantine, I have moved on from less productive habits. Instead of spending quality time with my family, I was up in my room for hours on end on my laptop. Morning to night, it was the same thing everyday. However, things changed during the virus. I wanted to be safe, which meant I needed a way to be alone while having fun. Through bike riding, I have developed a better understanding of my surroundings. Also, it’s a way to clear my mind while exploring things I would never have normally thought about.

Sometimes, I get a little fearful when I’m out on my own. The first time I rode my bike on my own was riding home alone from Target. Since the friend I was with had to leave early, it meant I had to navigate it by myself. It made me really nervous. As I watched cars pass by, I didn’t really know what others might be thinking of me. I know a lot of people might have been fine with it, but it was pretty nerve racking for me. 

Even today, I do still get a little anxious about going bike riding alone. Instead, I try to think about other things, like parts of my day or something funny that happened with my friends. I also try telling myself that it’s okay if other people judge, because in the long run it doesn’t really matter anyways.

Walking Alone

For as long as I can remember, going on walks with my family has been a normal thing. A lot of times, whenever my mom felt the need to get out, she would march into my room and announce that we should get outside for some fresh air. During quarantine, my family adopted a dog named Goose, and the two of us have been inseparable on our routine walks. Something I hadn’t really previously considered was taking myself on a walk, especially not devoid of distractions like earbuds or my phone or my dog. 

Since new years back in 2020, I wanted to fulfil a resolution of taking better care of myself. I decided that leaving the distractions behind and going out on walks alone might help me achieve my goal. I would walk alone whenever I would need a break from society because life is pretty hard to be honest. It’s a freedom I don’t really get at home; unless I’m in my room, I don’t really have the ability to get away from my family and my problems.

When I’m out, I can take the time to reflect, which is especially nice thanks to the feeling of a breezy evening or a comforting rainy atmosphere that surrounds me. The blossoming trees this time of year are truly gorgeous. Not having a distraction allows me to be more aware of my surroundings, which is something I really enjoy. 

Something I find kind of awkward on my walks is passing by strangers. It’s scary since I’m never quite sure what to do in those types of situations. I get too scared to make eye contact so I just end up staring at the ground. It always leaves me with an uneasy feeling. I do however love seeing people’s dogs, they always are so cute. 

I am not the type of person who usually likes being alone. I like the comfort of others, but being alone while walking lets me clear my head. When I’m out, a lot of my problems disappear, even if it’s just temporary. Those minutes are a lot to me because even if it’s just for a little while, all the stress on my shoulders is lifted.