All By Myself

It feels like I’ve been alone my whole life.

Not literally, of course. But I grew up an only child in a town of about 3000 people. My closest neighbors (both in age and proximity) were fully grown adults with fully grown children. No public transit, no sidewalks, no bike paths—if my mom wasn’t available to drive me into town, it was my responsibility to keep myself occupied.

I generally got along with the kids at school, but I was never the kid people clamored to hang out with. I was one of the few Black kids, and some parents wouldn’t let their kids play with me even if they wanted to. It wasn’t until 4th grade that I found someone I really connected with.

But I wasn’t lonely. Far from it! What I lacked in human companionship I made up for in books.

I read constantly—while I ate, waiting for the school bus, on the school bus, basically anytime I got a free moment. My mom played in a slow-pitch softball league, and I’d always ask how long the games would be. (I needed to know how many books to bring.) Reading, something I did entirely by myself, introduced me to people I’d never meet in my small southern town. But beyond that, those countless hours with my nose in a book taught me something truly valuable.

Being alone and being lonely aren’t the same at all.

Take yourself out on a date. Go on a solo trip. Be alone with yourself and your thoughts. Learn who you are without anyone else. Love who you are without anyone else. As long as you love who you are, what others think or say truly doesn’t matter.

In solitude the mind gains strength, and learns to lean upon itself.

Laurence Sterne