There’s this movie out there that I’ve watched 100 times, easily. In all those times, this one line about loneliness hadn’t caught my ear. Just the other night, however, I popped this old friend into my rickety DVD player and felt as though the two protagonists left the screen to chat with me on my couch.
“You seem embarrassed by loneliness, by being alone… It’s only a place to start.”
What a hopeful sentiment! If you haven’t figured it out already, that happiness-boosting quote I started out with came from the 1995 movie Sabrina, graced by the likes of Harrison Ford, Greg Kinnear, Lauren Holly and, of course, Julia Ormond as Sabrina herself. During Sabrina’s time alone in Paris, she went for long walks and wrote “nonsense” in a journal that didn’t turn out to be nonsense at all. Rather, it illustrated her transformation from co-dependent and indecisive to strong and confident.
Presently, I’m among the ranks of those living out their fresh starts in new cities solo. Some days I feel rather alone, yet other days I get my work done, go for a walk on the beach or a stroll downtown, unphased by the fact that I did so sans companion.
That being said, it’s probably best not to live in this state forever. The cliché, ‘no man is an island,’ exists for a reason. So for all those in the same boat, once your affairs are in order, you’ve settled into your new home and work is coming along nicely, it’s time to begin a new project. Below are five easy steps for anyone looking to branch out of their solitude.
1. Join Meetup.com
Have some fun searching around on Meetup. You’ll be surprised to see there’s nearly a group for everyone. When you hone in on an area of interest, pick a meetup that boasts a large membership and has several attendees signed up for the next event. This way, you’ll be able to be a wallflower until you decide you’re ready to stick out.
2. Become a Regular
Log on to the local newspaper’s website. Read the lifestyle section. Scout out activities where you can become a regular. Maybe you’ll quietly stroll through the farmer’s market every Saturday and get to know the local vendors. Maybe you’ll notice a local coffee shop that hosts live events. Frequent that coffee shop on quiet afternoons to get to know the staff. That could be your monday and wednesday afternoon pit stop.
3. Explore Activities
Is there a local bike shop that you can stop in and chit-chat with the staff? I bet they’ll be able to direct you to all the local trails. Is there a specific type of volunteering you’d like to do? Thursday night cooking at the local soup kitchen is only a Google search away.
4. Be Okay By Yourself
This is worth repeating: Be okay by yourself. Take time to do the things you never do when you’re wrapped up in a partner’s life, a partner’s family, a partner’s activities. Whether that’s learning an entirely new hobby or just organizing your closet and files, do the things get pushed to tomorrows to-do list when your focus is on being a we instead of a me.
5. Travel Alone
If you’re brave enough, pick a city or town and travel to it alone. If it’s your first time out, pick someplace you can hop in your car and drive to in two or three hours. Like selecting a large Meetup group, this makes tackling a new feat easier on you. Select a safe place to stay for two nights. Document the short trip with pictures and journal entries. Pull up a barstool at some great-looking spot downtown and order yourself a burger and beer. Chat with the bartender. Go armed with an article or two to read on your phone as well.
Bonus: Adopt a dog!
With a new pal by your side, you’ll have dog parks to visit, local pet shops to frequent and someone to trot along beside you on those afternoon strolls. But, if you want to travel and have a new pal in your life, you’ll either need to travel to cities that are renowned for being dog-friendly, or find an awesome kennel that’s more like summer camp than a prison sentence.
How fun will it be to look back on this time in only a year? Things can change so much in a mere 12 months. If you package this time up somehow— in a journal or on a kitchen cork-board—you’ll be able to look back one day and feel tremendous pride. You’ll see how you conquered a new city and learned to call it home. You’ll see how you developed those new relationships, casual or long-term. You’ll be proud of yourself. You’ll have the proof right before your eyes—you are spectacular.