Saturday, September 24, 2005

Loneliness Vs. Aloneness, or I Vant to Be Alone

So there I was in the bathroom stall at work yesterday morning, trying to suppress giddy giggling. I had just booked my plane tickets from Amsterdam to Florence, and a happier Friday I could not imagine.

But as I contemplated the shiny stall door latch, my elation was tempered by the thought that this trip would not be as I had first imagined it--a time alone for exploration of both the internal and external variety, a chance to pick up the gauntlet I had thrown down for myself to be utterly alone in a foreign place with few language skills and a huge desire to gulp down as much gelato, fresh pasta, and Renaissance art as I could stomach. I would have to rely a little on the kindness of strangers who may or may not speak English--very difficult for me indeed. Instead, a work colleague had made plans for Florence as well, and now I have a traveling companion--a very different experience indeed.

There's no getting around it: While I'm secretly relieved to not have to travel alone, I was also secretly looking forward to the somewhat-stressful-for-me rush of figuring out the plane, train, and walk to the hotel alone, of standing outside my hotel door and setting off in whatever direction suits my heart at that moment without having to think of another person. I feel like I need to do that, to find my way alone, literally and mentally. I think that was what I love about New York so much. No-one knew me. I could be whoever I wanted to be, project mystery or extravagance just for a little while. I've missed that.

So I'm mourning that vacation vision a little, because I won't be able to help myself--I'll be concerned with my traveling companion and her needs and won't be able to have the perfectly delicious, selfish vacation I had intended. I can be as clear as a bell with her that I want to spend some time alone, but I'll still worry that I'll hurt her feelings. I'm already worried. She says, and I believe her, that she's up for anything, but that means it's my responsibility to plan for her now, too. While I like her very much, we don't socialize outside of the office, and I don't think this will change after the trip. Why did she choose Florence, I wonder? Because I was going, and she didn't want to travel by herself? It's funny to have that perspectional (yes that's not a word, but do you know what I mean?) realization that some people would never have an adventure alone--it wouldn't be an adventure without someone to share it with as it unfolds.

But another realization came to me as I checked my teeth in the bathroom mirror: my tendency is to be alone, to do it myself, because that is indeed easier for me. I don't have to talk things out, bounce ideas around with another person. So maybe the greater challenge after all is to travel with a companion. Maybe that's a better gauntlet for me.

At least, that's what I'm telling myself. She's booked her plane tickets too and that's the hand I've been dealt by the Flying Spaghetti Monster, so time to suck it up. To enumerate the benefits of traveling with someone else, for my own sake:

- If something terrible happens to me, I won't be a continent and an ocean away from my family and friends alone.
- I'll see the city and its offerings through someone else's lens, and perhaps learn something or see something that I otherwise would've missed.
- I'll hopefully partake of something at her suggestion that I never would've thought of on my own.
- Maybe having a friend at my side will embolden me to reach out to more locals, since I won't be so worried about my own security.

But I'm really just making mental lemonade from lemons.

On a side but perhaps related note--maybe being an introvert helped sway the child-free decision. Not only are there fewer people to in my immediate life to take into consideration, all those peripheral people decisions are nipped in the bud--sleepovers, birthday parties, playdates--no large groups of talkative people to worry about when all I want to do is putter about in peace. No need to worry about my extroverted child's exploits or activities. I realize how important it is for a significant other to balance one's own proclivities for excess one way or the other, but the idea of living in a household where everyone else is an extrovert. Oh. God. No. Now that's something that I would've paid a geneticist for--"Make me an introverted baby." I'm grateful of course that other introverts are rising to the challenge of procreating so that our line can continue.


Happy blogiversary to me. It's been a year since I took up the digital ink. Amazing that I've stuck with it for a year, I'm such a dilettante.

An appropriate anniversary meme by way of Josh:

1. Go into your archive.

2. Find your 23rd post (or closest to).

3. Find the fifth sentence (or closest to).

4. Post the text of the sentence in your blog along with these instructions.

From November 2, 2004--Election Day: "Yes, we have lots of issues to sort out still, but this will be a little bit of closure."


Happy autumn!



At 4:17 AM, September 25, 2005, Blogger Nancy said...

I feel for your disappointment about the trip. I, too, prefer to travel alone for exactly the same reasons. I won't elaborate and put more discouraging thoughts in your head. I'll just say I hope that it works out well after all. Maybe it's worth the risk of hurting her feelings to try to claim some time for yourself. Good luck! I had envisioned an introverted child, too, but I think my son is on his way to being happily extraverted. But I don't mind. My husband is at the far end of the introvert spectrum, so our household will be balanced, with me closer to middle.

At 6:49 PM, September 25, 2005, Anonymous Kamala said...

I, too, feelo for you. I love to be alone and when I go to NYC by myself, it is wonderful, although it is usually balanced out by visits to Chan and Sara. However, I love the feeling that no one knows where I am or what I'm doing. On another note, I am, as you know, an extrovert, and have been "blessed" with an introvert husband (whom I chose) and two introvert children. It has been very difficult for me at times. Finally, what a photo! Good old Julia!

At 11:28 PM, September 25, 2005, Blogger Rebecca said...

I hear you!! I'm also glad that you'll have the (potential) advantage of added safety and personal growth (not that you need it) from a companion. But I'm also hoping she ends up wanting LOTS of alone time herself, or by chance hooks up with someone she knows from the states & lets you have your private adventures. I consider myself an introvert (why no one ever believes me when I say this, I don't know) but have two decidedly extraverted children. My husband and I joke that we're the geeks with the daughters who will want to be cheerleaders, and we won't know how to support them in their polpularity. I love my children but also envy you your child-free liberty.

At 8:33 AM, September 26, 2005, Blogger suzanne said...

Kamala, I actually thought of you as I was writing this post--I remember you telling me once years ago how your favorite part of visiting NY was the trip alone on the train, which astounded me at the time.

And in addition to practicing saying, "Mi chiamo Suzanne," I'm also practicing, "You know, I think I'll do some stuff on my own this afternoon!"

At 10:38 AM, September 26, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I like Mark's Mickey Mouse watch


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