You’re Not Lonely, If You’re Happily Alone

I was hungry – no hangry– one Sunday afternoon. My brunch plans were canceled at the last minute and the thought of eating another container of Greek yogurt to tide me over until dinner made me nauseous. I had a random craving for chilaquiles from Chavelas, a Mexican restaurant a couple of blocks from my apartment. Visions of fried tortilla chips, scrambled eggs, queso fresco, crema and salsa verde were dancing in my head. I texted a friend who lived nearby, but he was busy. I really wanted chilaquiles, but the thought of eating by myself only brought on anxiety, and for the first time in months, I felt lonely.

New York is one of those cities where you can be surrounded by people, yet feel utterly alone. It’s never just your city; it’s shared with millions of others. Strangers. Maybe it was the girls who flaked on brunch for the second time, or maybe it was the 19 degree weather that had lasted all week. Or maybe I just really wanted chilaquiles and was upset that I wouldn’t allow myself to enjoy them under the circumstances.

I was depending on others for happiness instead of seeking it within myself. And I’m not alone. Whether we seek  happiness in the form of dependency from family members, friends or partners, we’re missing out on the best relationship we will ever have – the one with ourselves.

Last summer I flew to California by myself and traveled down the coast. I stayed with relatives during my San Francisco and San Diego legs, but was on my own in Los Angeles. As cheesy as it sounds, the experience was life changing.  When we become accustomed to our comfort zones, we get complacent and personal growth stalls. Being alone doesn’t have to be synonymous with being lonely. One is a state of solitude, the other is a feeling. And feelings change.

I ended up going to Chavelas by myself and the chilaquiles were just as good as I remembered. I discovered that I am my own best company, and that it’s okay to eat at a restaurant alone, to take a solo trip, to sleep alone…and to enjoy it.

Next week is New York Restaurant Week and I’m excited to participate. Not many friends are willing to spend $25 for lunch at this month’s it restaurant – and that’s okay. We all have different interests, but that shouldn’t stop us from doing what we find enjoyable, even if that means experiencing it alone.

I made a lunch reservation at The Dutch for next week. I’m excited to try their lemon chess pie with buttermilk ice cream and their most popular item: the hot fried chicken with honey-butter biscuits and slaw.

It’s going to be great.

Table for one, please.