Saturday, 20 February 2016

I Can Do Things ALL BY MYSELF.

Like, take awful selfies outside the Queen's house.

So, this week I was meant to be going on holiday to my spiritual home, Butlin's (I'm a frustrated wannabe redcoat, what can I say?!).  Instead, at the very last minute, as I was sitting in my car, packed and ready to dance to The Music Man every night, everything fell through.  My friend felt poorly and didn't want to go (get well soon!).  

Faced with the idea of a week off work with nothing to do besides furiously attempt to promote my novel (which you can totally buy here, if you live in the UK, by the way, or here if you live in the USA - it's basically on Amazon, check it out), I was pretty blue.  I had planned for a week away; dancing, doing silly stuff and forgetting the stresses of work and daily life.  Suddenly, there I was, looking at the very real prospect of turning the car around and driving an hour and a half back home, where I'd have to unpack everything I'd only put in the case the night before.

That was until my sister offered me her spare room for the week.  She lives in London and, although she and her fiancee would be working for the vast majority of the time I'd be there, she told me I was welcome to travel up and spend some time in the city by myself.

Now, despite being half-Londoner (Dad was born and raised there) and having spent lots of time in the city over the years, I was apprehensive.  I mean, I've always had people with me when I've been in the city.  I'd never even caught the tube on my own (not that that actually worried me in the slightest; I sort of love the underground).

No, the trouble was this:  One thing those who know me away from this blog are usually pretty aware of is that I'm a people person.  I like doing things with friends or family.  Yeah sure, I love my own space and I need to take myself off to write by myself or just chill out on my own now and then, but if I'm going out anywhere, I almost always prefer to have someone come along.  I won't go to the cinema by myself.  I don't even like the idea of eating alone in public, anywhere.  I'm a social creature, what can I say?!

Maybe I spent too much of my youth watching this...  YOU SAID YOU'D BE THERE FOR ME!!

Anyway, after a short period of umming and aahing, I decided what the heck.  I'd drive to London by myself (which I've done lots of times, anyway) and I'd spend some time with me.

I'm not even sorry.

And weirdly, I made a discovery:  I can do things by myself.  Not only that, but I can do things by myself and really, really enjoy it.

All the things that I thought would be a bit scary just... Weren't.  

Finding things by myself wasn't a problem; I only got lost once and that was because Harrods is just really badly signed - who has a Disney section in an area that's almost impossible to flipping find?!  Seriously, Harrods, HAVE MORE MAPS.

I conquered my weird fear of eating alone in public, by choosing to get a panini and a latte and sit in Regent's Park, watching the ducks on the water.  It was a genuinely lovely experience, until a posse of pigeons turned up to try to intimidate me into giving them my lunch.  BUT OH NO, PIGEONS.  I AM A STRONG, INDEPENDENT WOMAN AND THE PANINI WAS AAAAAALL MINE.

I not only zipped across the city on the tube by myself every day, but I even squished myself onto a packed train during rush hour and darted between commuters like a freaking pro.

I didn't get mugged or murdered, which was exceptionally good news (unless you hate me, in which case, why are you reading my blog?  Go away and plot against me or something).  

I didn't even get my phone stolen (yippee!), despite my utter insistence on whipping it out and taking touristy selfies at every opportunity.

Somebody stop me.

But most importantly of all, I didn't have a single moment where I thought: "I wish I wasn't by myself."  Hanging out on my own meant that I could choose where to go and when I wanted to go there.  I didn't have to ask anyone else what they fancied doing, because the only person whose opinion mattered at the time was mine.  I didn't have to rush, I didn't have to compromise and I didn't once feel bored, which was something of a revelation.  It turns out that choosing to spend time entirely by myself isn't lonely, scary or isolating.  In fact, going out into the big, wide world and doing stuff alone is absolutely fine.

Maybe it sounds like a lesson I should have learnt years ago, but this really did come as a pleasant surprise to me.  I thought I would feel awkward doing stuff by myself.  I thought maybe people would look at me oddly and wonder where my friends were.  But actually, people are generally pretty wrapped up in their own lives; too much so to notice the short girl taking terrible selfies in tourist hot spots.  And, as it turns out, having the confidence to say "I'm going to go out and do something by myself" is incredibly liberating.

Sure, I still prefer having people around me and doing things in a group.  But you know what?  There's a lot to be said for doing stuff alone, too.  Next time I want to do something and nobody else fancies it, that won't put me off going and doing it anyway.

So, here's to getting out there and spending a day with yourself.  Be brave - you might be surprised how much you enjoy it.

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