I used to hate my own company, mostly because I felt ‘going solo’ was somehow synonymous with seeming unpopular and/or finding myself alone, both things I’d sadly experienced as a tween during most painfully when a group of new friends I’d made in the first week of high school and unequivocally trusted, deserted me a week later, leaving me friendless for what seemed like forever (it was a term). Those experiences are formative though, and it took years to rebuild my trust in friends and feeling worthy of friendshop. Rejection is hard. No more so than aged 11.
Life inevitably changed and evolved of course, as did I, and I felt popular and most importantly, valued, at Sixth Form and University with lots of interesting and kind friends, yet despite feeling secure in those friendships, I rarely spent time alone.
I lived in shared accommodation (halls) at Uni, hung out with close mates at every opportunity (or colleagues, thanks to my weekend jobs in a shoe shop and waitressing) and then after graduation, found myself working long hours in the TV and Film industry with events doubling up as work. My professional life saw me graft but also party, harder than ever.
Alone-time wasn’t easy to harness back then with a flat-share and then moving in with my boyfriend now husband Peter, but I don’t remember actively seeking it out, either. I’m a real people’s person and love the company of others but kids have seen a huge turnaround for me, probably because alone-time is harder to find than ever. The good news? When I get it, I flipping love my own company!
I now regularly carve out and relish being on my own.
I think the initial turning point for this was during my recovery from a traumatic birth. I forced myself to walk as much as possible with Oliver in the pram to help both my body and mind, and discovered that my own company (and that of a toddler’s) was actually more fun than I’d thought it would be. It helped that I was now living in Leeds and felt supported by family and friends after experiencing excruciating loneliness in London as a first-time mum and the first of my friends to have a baby too.
Now, I adore hanging on my lonesome whether that’s watching a movie solo at the cinema, heading to a restaurant or gallery, or my cheeky favourite, shopping solo. It’s not that I prefer to be alone (I live for those kids and adore my husband and friends), it’s just I no longer fear it and more so, I genuinely enjoy it.
My big dream is to have the confidence to go abroad solo, again. I moved to Rome for a short time in my 20s but since having kids, I’ve never holidayed alone. My good pal Jacqui Paterson, journalist and blogger shared her experience travelling by herself,
‘My first solo trip was completely unplanned – my travel partner backed out at the last minute and I decided I wasn’t going to miss out too. I was really nervous beforehand, and very nearly changed my mind, but sheer stubbornness got me on that flight to Milan. And I’m SO glad I did because it sparked off a real passion for solo travel. Since then I’ve travelled extensively on my own – everywhere from Oxford to Finland, from Croatia to Montenegro. The freedom is amazing – I do what I want when I want, without having to worry about keeping anyone else happy. The solace of solo travel gives me time to clear my mind and clarify my thoughts, and I always return feeling excited and energised.
‘To successfully find your way around a strange city, or communicate with someone who doesn’t speak English gives you a real sense of achievement. The confidence I’ve gained from travelling on my own has transferred to all other areas of my life – it no longer fazes me to dine on my own, or walk into a room of strangers, or go to the cinema alone. Yes, I get some curious stares, but more often than that I get people telling me how envious they are, and how they wished they had the courage to travel alone too. I always encourage them to give it a try, as it truly is one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done.’
Yes to that. I’m off to plan a trip!
Do you like your own company?