I used to be terrified of being alone. Not alone as in single for the rest of my life, but alone. It’s a different kind of feeling. Having company is important for a lot of people, and that company can be the presence of one person, a small group of people or a massive crowd. It can be a beer with someone after work, a Game of Thrones viewing party or a reunion of college friends. Company is company. Humans are social beings.
I used to be scared and embarrassed if I ever had to grab a quick bite to eat and didn’t have anyone around to go with me. Yes, people are busy, but I did not want to be the loser who sat by himself in the corner of the restaurant, so I’d order food to go and either eat it quickly in my car, or take it to wherever I was going and eat it there.
What I’ve realized as I’ve grown older is that, especially around here, the only person thinking “my gosh, look at that freak, eating his food completely alone” was me. I’m not in a middle school cafeteria anymore. No one cares if I go somewhere alone. Alone time or taking a moment for myself is as important as taking a nap or getting a quick, solo workout in. Sometimes exactly what we need as humans and adults is a break from all that is going around us and a little time to ourselves.
Since I decided it wasn’t weird to be alone in public, and since I decided I didn’t need a crew of friends to go to the park, or to go to a movie, I’ve spent less time going crazy in my tiny, old apartment, and more time living, exploring, and sharing experiences such as, get this, a smile or a friendly wave from a stranger.
I’ve gone to countless movies by myself at Park Terrace, or my favorite theater, the Manor. I have a strange movie taste. My friends don’t like a lot of the movies I like. So, why wait to convince someone to unwillingly drive down Providence Rd. and spend 150 minutes in a dark room watching something they know nothing about, and, oh, it’s in French and they hate it, when I can just decide as I leave work on a Tuesday night that I want to see a weird French flick and then just go do it?
If I know no one interested in seeing a show on a Saturday night at the Double Door, I can still go. I can share the experience of live music, and I can dance with randos and drink PBR out of a can for four hours. I can look an old man in the eye, look at his cane and his cowboy hat and his feet tapping and give him a nod and a smile, and we both know we feel the same way about the sound that’s coming off the stage a few feet in front of us.
It’s not the company you’re with, it’s about the experiences you share with all types of people wherever you go. It’s the shared smell of a brat at Olde Meck or a loaded dog at JJ’s. It’s sitting at the bar and having an actual, real conversation with the bartender. It’s passing money through five different people in a corner of Hooligans so crowded you can’t even touch the bar. It’s the five strangers passing back your beer and spilling it all over themselves along the way, then offering you a slice of pizza. It’s a quick smile at someone on their laptop at Mayobird, a wave to a group of disc golfers as you wander through the woods at Renaissance Park, feeling lost, and feeling a peace you can only feel being lost in the woods, minutes from center city.
Yes, being with friends and in the presence of people you know and love and care about is wonderful, but it’s nice every now and then to do what you want, when you want, have a moment to yourself, and maybe, just maybe, share that moment with someone you never expected to. Charlotte has too many cool, interesting places for you to wait until your friends want to join you. Start doing you. Get out and explore. Maybe we can share a moment.