“Venture outside your comfort zone. The rewards are worth it.” — Rapunzel, Tangled
Some years ago, I was talking with my therapist about my fear of being alone. I had been so used to being with someone every single day that the thought of not having a partner to come home to or wake up to or take trips with anymore terrified me. My therapist advised me to start carving out some alone time every now and then to see how it made me feel. Maybe I’d get used to it. Maybe I’d like it. Take a bubble bath. Go for a walk. Have a picnic in the park. I panicked at the thought of this. But I vowed to give it a try.
One Sunday I packed up my journal and went to a coffee shop. This was my day to be alone. I’ve totally got this. I ordered a coffee and sat down at a table. I looked around. Everyone was sitting with someone. Everyone was laughing at each other’s stories. Everyone had friends. Everyone was looking at me and wondering why I was alone. Everyone thinks I’m a loser. Shit. I straightened my back, I sipped from my coffee mug and I opened my new journal. I’m supposed to be alone. I like being alone. I need to be alone.
I began to write. I think I wrote about three words when my phone buzzed. It was a text from my best friend, Annie.
A: Hey! What are you up to? We’re all at Diablo Royale having margs for Sunday Funday. Come?
I closed my journal and off I went to have a great day with friends. The margs were perfect.
What I’m trying to say is that you can’t force it. It needs to come naturally. There I was, alone at this coffee shop, doing something I didn’t want to do. I think the coffee wasn’t that great either. No need to force misery on yourself. Life is too short for that.
But my reality was this: My apartment no longer had someone else in it. It was just me. I had two decisions: Ensure someone else was always filling that empty space or make the best of it with me, myself and I. The latter was less exhausting and to be honest, less needy-like and healthier.
Believe me, this took some time. It wasn’t easy at all. I filled the void with people for quite a while. Running to this thing and that. But then one day it clicked.
Wait. I can watch Real Housewives whenever I want without someone bitching about how bad the show is?
Wait. I can drink a glass or two or three of wine while watching Dateline on a Friday night?
Wait. I can hop on my bike and ride for as long as my little heart desires and order the extra-large, fully loaded nachos when I’m done?
Step by step, little by little…I started to like my Fi time. And no one could say a damn thing about how I was spending it.
I travel quite a bit for my job at Saint Laurent. And typically when I travel, I travel alone. When in each city, I’m meeting new people almost every day. I’m approaching them, introducing myself, and talking about all kinds of things.
To be honest, each time I go out on my own, I get butterflies. But then I think about the experiences and the stories. The room service and the early bed times. The peace and quiet. The new friends. I can truly do whatever the hell I want.
Right now, I’m a few days into a week-long tour of Florida for work. My stops include Naples, Sarasota, Tampa, Orlando, Palm Beach, Boca Raton and Miami. Before I left New York, I was talking with a friend about my travels:
I: Whoa that’s a lot of places. What are you going to do?
Me: I don’t know. I’m pretty tired. I considered Disney World since I’ll be in Orlando and I’ve never been but I can’t do that alone. That’s just creepy.
Me: (Darn. Was hoping he’d tell me to go…)
A couple of days later, during my stop at Nordstrom in Tampa, I met a super sweet sales associate, Andrales. We got to talking about my Florida tour and he stopped me at Orlando.
A: You HAVE to go to Disney World.
Me: Really? By myself? I’ve never been…
A: WHAT?! No, girl. GO. You have to go to Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Animal Kingdom…
A: YES. At least Magic Kingdom. I go, like, every week.
Me: You go alone?!
A: Well, no. I go with my boyfriend.
That night, I bought my ticket for the next day. Fi says yes, after all.
Before heading to Magic Kingdom, I dawdled a bit. Was I going to do this? I got ready and went to Neiman Marcus in Orlando and spent time with the team there. Then I went to the Saint Laurent Orlando store, met the staff and mentioned that I was planning to go to Disney World alone. But maybe not. It was 4PM by this point.
The Saint Laurent Orlando store director, Antuanette, was so excited.
A: Omg, you have to go. Get a turkey leg, eat the Dole pineapple ice cream, and get ears with your name monogrammed on them!
Me: I can do that? Get my name on the ears? Do I wear them the whole time?
A: YES! You have to wear them the whole time.
Me: Hmm..ok. Do they have pink ones….pink sequin ones?
I was so nervous as I parked my rental car in the Simba lot (the Heroes parking section). I’m just going to run in and run out, I thought to myself. This is crazy.
The energy was overflowing in Magic Kingdom. Everyone was so giddy. The first thing I did was get ears. I was feeling pretty excited about wandering around with them on my head like a five-year old. The woman monogramming my Minnie Mouse ears handed them to me. Eep! They’re here! I looked at the hat with utter joy. It read: Fiona. Shoot. Not my name.
She immediately made me a new hat with the proper spelling of Fiana.
With ears secured tightly on my head, I walked around and gazed at all the lights. I stepped into a theater to watch Mickey’s PhilharMagic Concert in 3-D. I saw Goofy, Donald, Minnie and Mickey groove to Bruno Mars. I devoured fully loaded nachos with a side of queso. I drank the chocolatiest of all hot chocolates. And I rode Space Mountain in a car all by myself.
Space Mountain attendant: They let you ride like that? All by yourself?
Me: Yep! (as I skipped away)
I even enjoyed the Dole pineapple ice cream that Antuanette recommended even though it was just above 40°F outside. To cap off the experience, I watched the most enchanting fireworks display close out the night. I’m pretty sure I had a stupid grin on my face the entire time.
As I explored the Kingdom, I realized that I was having a blast…with and by myself. I was doing whatever I wanted. Going wherever I wanted. Eating all the things I wanted. All while walking around with big ass Minnie Mouse ears on my head. No one forced me to do it, just encouraged. The rest was up to me. Thank goodness for new friends and for down-home, good ‘ol growth. (Yes, I sent all my new Florida friends a photo of me wearing my snazzy ears.)
Something about doing things alone that unleashes the wonderful, irresistible, powerful person you are. Here’s the thing: Don’t neglect that person. She wants to play. So sprinkle some pixie dust on yourself. Think of the happiest things (it’s the same as having wings). And let her fly.
Note: I wrote this from my hotel room while drinking a glass of white wine with Real Housewives Atlanta on the TV. Yes.