Recently I found myself faced with a decision whether or not I should attend an event alone, like solo, as in ALL BY MYSELF. I had two tickets to a sold out book tour event and unfortunately a friend dropped out at the last minute. I attempted a down-to-the-wire Hail Mary on craigslist but it was too late to sell, so getting my money back was not an option. To go or not to go, that was the actual question. I had a quick mental conversation with myself, did I actually want to go? Yes. Did I want to go alone? No. So now what?
Now if you’re the confident, strut into any room and not think twice kind of person, you have my admiration. But for many of us the idea of going solo to an event can be overwhelming. Eating alone at a restaurant or seeing a great movie by yourself are steps recommended in therapist’s offices around the globe. Why? Well, I guess you’d have to ask the therapist because I don’t actually know but it must do something positive for the psyche. Maybe the more you do it the better and easier it gets or some sort of strength building mind trick perhaps. What I do know is that the idea of walking into a social gathering or crowed space alone can be debilitating for some of us and oftentimes we are misunderstood by others who haven’t experienced anxiety themselves.
Months ago when I purchased the tickets I envisioned a fun night out with a friend, perhaps drinks before and then we would happily arrive and take our seats. To set the stage, I’m single and have been for a long time. I’ve accepted this and in many ways thrived in singleness but one of the trickiest parts is that most of my friends are not single. We are in different phases of life and while most of the time this is a non-issue, every once in a while it is. I tried inviting a few different friends but being that it was so last minute and that pesky phase of life I just referred to made planning on the fly a non-starter. But nonetheless, the first thing I had to do was adjust my expectations of the night. The next was conjure up the courage to go solo.
The doors opened at 6pm for snacks and beverages and the event was to start at 7pm. At 6:50pm still sitting on my sofa at home and after going back and forth many times in my head, I decided to put on my shoes and call a ride share service to pick me up. Screw it, I’m going I decided.
What this meant was facing my anxiety head-on and deciding that it’s okay to show up solo, I mean, what’s the worst things that can happen? I ponder for a minute… let’s see, things that would cause an instant flare of pink cheeks: 1. Clusters of ladies stop and stare at the solo late arrival (aka me) and immediately I’m thrust back to the emotions of the school yard “pick me” games. 2. The cute and fashionable door greeters look at you with that sad expression as they scan your dual ticket but seeing only you, ask, you don’t have a friend, you are here alone? or worse yet 3. Nothing but deep middle seats left and someone thinks they’ve scored the coveted empty seat next to them and are highly disappointed to see you shuffling and excusing yourself across the row to rob them of this joy. The mind has a way of setting up for worst case scenarios and I fall prey way too easily. But, I had made up my mind and had one foot out the door, I was going solo.
So, what actually happened? I arrived at 7:05 just minutes before the author took the stage. I was received by those cute and fashionable door greeters as I imagined but they were sweet and didn’t make me feel strange for being alone. One of the ladies walked around with me to find seat options in the almost entirely packed-out venue. I scored an aisle seat in a great row next to a nice woman and all was well. The evening was relaxed, entertaining, and enjoyable. When the event was over and before most people had even cleared their rows, I was already hopping back in a ride share and on my way home feeling happy and relaxed.
My lasting thoughts are that it’s never as bad as we imagine it will be and no one cares who you are with or without for that matter. I could have easily let the night slip by all cozied up on the sofa and skipped the event altogether. But I didn’t. I made the choice to push beyond my comfort zone and at the end of the day I banked the experience. As I grow older, I’m finding more and more value in life experiences. They have a greater payoff with lasting memories that far outweigh material goods and most certainly an evening on the couch.
I was most definitely nervous walking in alone and my mind played its little games for a moment or two but ultimately it wasn’t that bad. I settled in just like everyone else, took the evening in and thoroughly enjoyed myself. So, the next time an event rolls around that I’m eager to attend, I may just buy one ticket and call it a day. With a little practice I might actually get pretty good at this going solo thing and learn to love it.
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