My Definitive Guide to Being a Successful Loner

(Photo: Heather Hansen)

(Photo: Heather Hansen)

So Trump won the presidency. Winter's coming on (I think?). And some-other-third-thing inserted here. What this all loosely (or hardly) relates to is the fact that we're getting to a time of year where people are hampered by seasonal affective disorder and you might, on occasion, find yourself spending some time alone (or maybe not, but I'd appreciate if you'd just indulge me here; you decided to read this for some reason, right?). In speaking with a dear friend of mine recently, it struck me that people can have quite a difficult time knowing what to do with themselves when they find they are on their lonesome.

As someone who considers themselves somewhat adept at being alone, or otherwise adept at knowing how to fill up time with various ditties and activities when no one else is around, I felt compelled to compile (neat phrase, no?) a little old list — a guide, if you will — on how to be alone.

And you may think that sounds sad and depressing and melancholy and what not, but then you'd be totally missing the point, which, squarely, is thus: knowing how to be alone — how to be okay with aloneness — is an important skill. It's related to your independence in this great wide world of ours and is, I should think, telling of how well you'll be able to handle yourself when you eventually, say, take a job in a city where you don't know anyone.

Can you handle being alone? If your answer is a resounding yes, then props to you, read no further. But if not, here are my tips on mastering the art of spending time with oneself:


I. Read a book, for Pete's sake

Pete will really appreciate it. But seriously, they do still print these wonderful little bundles of joy filled with words upon words that can transport you to another world or enlighten you on some subject you may wish to be enlightened upon, such as the origin of the game of cribbage or why a raven is like a writing desk.

Superfluous examples aside, my personal reading queue at the moment involves such selections as The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien, The Bully Pulpit by my favorite historian Doris Kearns-Goodwin, and a collection of H.P. Lovecraft's short stories. I know, I know, so many exciting things at once. Just take deep breaths.

II. The Netflix machine is your friend, but only in moderation

I'm guilty, I'll say it. I've binge watched a Netflix original series (*cough* House of Cards *cough*) and spent all afternoon and night in a dark room doing so.

There is this weird dynamic that occurs, at least in my experience, when binge watching a show. It's this strange concoction of feelings, one that says "This is so great! I want to keep watching until there isn't any left!" and another that screams, from somewhere far away in the back of my mind: "Get off your ass right now and do something more productive!"

Sad as it may sound, latter voice is right, you won't feel all that accomplished after spending seven hours glued to your computer screen, even if you find out how Pennsatucky came to Jesus or how Donald Draper finally exercised his demons. Let Netflix be your friend, sure, but make it the friend you only deal with in small doses.

III. Do not spend all your free time laying in bed

A famous psychologist whose name escapes me — or maybe just one of those motivational quotes I saw somewhere on social media — advised me that my bed should only be used for sleeping and sex. As for the former, try not to spend all your alone time napping; it only makes you even more tired and is just depressing all around. As for the latter, what you do with your body is none of my business.

But the point is you need to get out of bed. You need to get up and move around and get the blood flowing, you know, man? You start to feel yourself withering away if you spend too much time there.

IV. Consider an online project, such as a blog or vlog

You won't have much time to sit and ponder about your aloneness if you are busy with some kind of project. And if you have a lot of thoughts in your brain like the average person does and think some of those thoughts might be worth sharing with an online audience, type them up or get the webcam going and make a YouTube video. It could be the start of something. 

Or you could go the route I have on occasion, and just end up with a copious amount of music videos where it's just you singing a cappella. And half of them probably won't even sound good. (Okay, maybe more than half.)

V. Learn how to do something new, or just learn something new

Alone time is the perfect time to master your Iron Chef skills or begin your quest for fluency in a foreign language via a program like Rosetta Stone (though I cannot vouch for that particular program's effectiveness because I know not a thing about it other than the fact that it exists). 

Maybe you find a YouTube series on do-it-yourself home improvement projects and become a regular Mr. or Mrs. Fix-It. Perhaps you study stock market trends and jump into the fray, earning yourself some big bucks. Or maybe you go Wikipedia surfing and discover that repeatedly clicking the first lowercase link in the primary text of an article leads you back to the "Philosophy" page no matter where you start from (not even kidding, check this page out).

VI. Don't be afraid to go out and do things by yourself...

...even if it seems like an activity that requires at least two people. I am not being facetious in any way when I say I have gone to the movies by myself. Both times I can recount doing this it was because I wanted to see something that none of my friends were either a) interested in, or b) available for.

These facts did not stop me from seeing a 10 a.m. showing of Rebel Without a Cause (1955) — starring style icon and all-around cool dude James Dean, who was taken from us when he was much too young — at the historic Vogue Theatre in downtown Manistee (yay for shameless plugs!) one summer, nor did they stop me from viewing the sequel to Dumb & Dumber that came out in 2014 (though I can't say that was exactly a great use of time). 

On a grander scale, I have traveled alone as well, trekking out to a cabin by myself in the woods in Vermont in March 2015. That was quite the adventure, involving a 12-hour drive through Canada, and I'd recommend anyone considering traveling alone for the first time to read up on tips like these before doing so.

And now... Honesty Hour: I wanted to type up some seventh tip on being a successful loner, because, as most are aware, seven is a sexy number, but I cannot think of another thing I would like to suggest at this time and I cannot in good faith write a seventh tip that is not worth a crap for any of the parties here involved. 

So instead, I invite you to enjoy this gif:

Thank you for reading and have a pleasant tomorrow.