I thought I was strong for doing things alone, but doing things alone just made me realize I don’t want to be. Granted, there were some things I knew I had to do alone, like travel to Ireland at 19, to give myself permission to heal from a painful senior year. After the trip, I was grateful for the time by myself, but it also would’ve been nice to have someone there to share the memories with.
No one will know the streets I walked, the smells I experienced, the mist from the shore, the breathtaking view from the hill I trekked, the music from the Temple Bar district, the sound of the choir in St. Patrick’s Cathedral, or the countless times people asked me if I was Florence from the Florence and the Machine.
They won’t know about the endless cups of tea, or the kind man in the consignment shop who wrote down all the places a local would go to. Thank you, sir. I still have your list of ‘Must Do’s’. Traveling and taking chances can be romantic and brave, but there is something about companionship and community that I crave. Even more than exploring alone.
Despite being independent and traveling the world, I realized that I do want to make memories, but not only that. I want to make memories that are to be shared with people. I am all for trying new things and taking chances (still working on this one, can I get an amen?), but what is the point of taking those chances if you have no one to share them with?
I’ve probably gone to the movies by myself more than I have with friends. Most of those times were for the sheer desire to be close to someone even if it was in a dark room full of strangers.
I can admit that there are some things I won’t do, because I don’t want to do them alone. When I lived in New York I would roam the streets and find a restaurant to eat at and it was fine and all, but there came a point that I just didn’t want to do that anymore. I wanted someone on the other side of the table, instead of the waiter taking the place setting across from me. I wanted to take a water taxi to Governors Island and ride a bike on the path, but I didn’t. Because I wanted company. So eventually, I stopped going to restaurants and ordered in. Sounds depressing, because it was. Trust me, I was there.
You might think that not wanting to be alone hindered me from experiencing life. To a point, it did. But you weren’t there. There were a lot of moments I said, “yes,” too. Like when I bought a ticket to see a local Irish musician playing in the small town of Howth, just outside of Dublin, or when I walked across the Brooklyn Bridge (which I didn’t want to do alone, but I did anyway), or all the times I went to the MET just because I loved the way Van Gogh made me smile. I did those things. I am proud of that.
I won’t discount all that I have done for a small amount of opportunities I might have missed.
I am still trying to figure out the balance of experiencing things now (not sure if balance is even possible), instead of going through life waiting for the “right time.” I don’t have it figured out, but I know some things can wait, and some things can be repeated. I know it won’t hurt trying a restaurant for myself first, and then coming back later with a friend. My experience might save us from having to endure a bad pad thai, who’s to say. I thought I was strong alone, but the people in my life have given me a new strength only community can bring. I could laugh at my own jokes, but it’s less weird and more satisfying if my mom laughs at them instead.
The people in my life have pushed me to do greater things than I ever would have done by myself. The memories I have made meant so much more when someone else was there on the subway car, too.
So I will end with this, we live in a world that says, ‘breakaway’, when we were made to come together. I need to be reminded that I can be successful with others on my team. I can find purpose without finding isolation. I can have dreams, without leaving people out of them. It is possible to be bold AND have community. So invite a friend to dinner. Give someone a ride to the airport. Challenge your dad to a dance off. Let people know you need them.