“Why are you going out alone?”
That’s what my mum says when I head out by myself for some “me time” on the weekends. No, it’s not because she’s concerned for my safety. Melbourne is a pretty safe city in broad daylight.
Rather, my parents – and many of my friends – think it’s odd and twisted that I like to spend time with me, myself and I.
Quite often, it’s comforting to be part of a group. Chances are someone’s got your back. In Asian cultures, togetherness is a virtue. Recently everyone in my family came home at different hours and we ate dinners at different times by ourselves in silence. Then came one weekday when we all sat down for dinner at the same time, to which my mum said, “Finally, we can eat together. Not alone.” That night we all ate dinner together. In silence.
Company comes with a touch of happiness, all the more reason why being alone is fathomed as strange. Love between two people brings about warm and fuzzy feelings. Kids laugh playing tag with each other in the playground. I know I did when i was younger.
But being by ourselves is a good thing. We learn to stand on our own two feet when we’re alone. We learn that we’re stronger than we think. Some will walk out of our lives and won’t be there for us forever. Everyone says going to the cinema alone is a lonely occasion. I’ve been watching movies by myself of late as my friends are busy, and really, I don’t feel any different going with someone.
We can relax when we’re alone, do what we’ve always wanted to do without being judged. We spend most of the week at school or work, seeing the same faces and follow the same routines which can get tiresome. Saturdays and Sundays are the days when I get away from chatty colleagues and find peace and quiet at home, perfect for writing silly stories straight from my heart. No one laughing at me.
And so when we’re by ourselves, we take a step back from the world telling us to do this and that. We slow down when we’re alone. Hear that inner voice speaking to us.
That’s not to say we should make it our mission to be alone all the time. With company, we talk and learn. Get comfortable around different people. Think of others around us.
Why are so many of us afraid of being alone? Are we afraid of taking a hard look at ourselves and finding out who we really are? Most certainly – we’re not perfect. Finding our flaws is a scary thing; sometimes doing our best isn’t enough. Realising we’re different and don’t fit certain moulds is scary too. Are we likeable?
I’ve always felt lonely as a Chinese-Australian living in Melbourne, too Asian to be Australian and too Australian to be Asian. Never fitting in with my peculiar Malaysian-Singaporean accent. Last year, I was asked to give a talk at Kurunjang Secondary College on being an Asian person in Australia. Sitting alone in my room preparing my speech the night before the talk, I wondered why I got invited.
I scribbled down my experiences of racism and moving countries on a scrap piece of paper. The school had specifically asked me to “share my story”. Such an honour. In the quietness of the night, it hit me: no two people, even of the same race, have the same story. We each have different roles to play. Different interests. Different perceptions. So, what’s my story? Well…who am I? I’m a wanderer. Video gamer. Non-drinker. Blogger. Writer. Asian Australian. Australian. Me.
When we’re alone, we get to know ourselves better.
Get to know who we are. What we stand for.
And come to love who we really are.
Do you like spending time by yourself? What do you do in your spare time alone?