In Essays on
November 6, 2016

How I Learnt to Be Alone


When I was a student, I spent a lot of my Saturday nights alone. A move to a new city and a deceased relationship left me completely lost.

It was isolating. At a time filled with insecurities and uncertainty, to be alone on a Saturday when it felt like everyone else was with friends and having THE BEST TIME EVER!!!1, there I was with a box set and a 10pm bedtime just because I had little choice.

On Monday morning, I’d make up elaborate stories about my weekend. “Oh yeah, I’m so hungover too” I’d say nonchalantly to my classmates. I was young, and my loneliness was a source of embarrassment.

A few years later, as I entered the world of work and all of the stresses it brings, I developed insomnia.

Not a hyperbolic tale of “I-had-insomnia-last-night” but actual, crippling insomnia. To the point that I was fearful of getting into bed and the anxiety that ensued.

One of the things it taught me is that if you can’t get to sleep for a prolonged period of time, get up. Do something. I discovered there’s something powerful about writing and simply being in the middle of the night. The air almost feels cleaner. Less people are thinking. It was just me and my thoughts tiptoeing around in the depths of the night. Again, I was alone.

When my work took me to New York unexpectedly for a summer, again there I was, lo and behold, alone. The first week was a series of eating lunch in toilet cubicles and locating restaurants where other lonesome business diners may be.

But, with time, I started walking with my head a little higher. I started to enjoy the anonymity. I started to give less fucks. The choice of restaurant was mine. I could read and bathe and sleep as long as I liked. I could take hundreds of photos of pretty buildings, and there was nobody telling me to hurry up. And as I stood on top of the Rockefeller Center, observing the lights of midtown Manhattan below, I overcame my ultimate fear: I asked a stranger to take a photo of me, in all of my solitary glory.

Afterwards, I skipped through the streets of midtown Manhattan, feeling triumphant. I had all I needed. I had myself.

It’s funny, because popular culture teaches us that being alone is a bad thing. Think of Carrie Bradshaw alone at the restaurant on her 35th birthday or Bridget Jones’ entire plight . It seems negative, right? To be alone, is to be unloved, unwanted, unworthy.

Except, of course, it isn’t.

There are many other instances I could tell you about — like when I spent New Year’s Eve alone in bed, or even the time I took myself on holiday because, really, why the hell not?

But the point is that being “alone” got better with time. And learning to not only accept my loneliness, but actually embrace it has made me braver in every area of my life — work, love and otherwise. Who would have thought?

Being alone is like a backbone. You have to work at it and the rewards will follow.

Don’t be afraid to be alone. To be afraid of being alone, is to be afraid of yourself.

Besides, loneliness is never about the amount of people you’re surrounded by, but how disconnected you feel from the world. In order to feel more connected to the world, your world, you need to get to know yourself better. See? The solution is so often, in fact, time spent alone.

Nowadays, I embrace the silence. My best ideas come from solitude. I’ve gotten to know myself better, and learnt to like myself in the process. A lot, actually. I’ve been to memorable gigs alone, watched great films and taken myself out on dates. Yes, alone. “A table for one, please” is no longer a cause of anxiety, but more a sense of pride.

It goes without saying that doing things alone isn’t always as fun. But sometimes the timing of your life means you’re alone, and, when it does, actually liking your own company is an extraordinary asset.

I’m more comfortable with myself now than ever before. I’m no longer hiding behind the shadows of other people because I’ve stepped into my own light.

And you know what? I’m great company. I’m thoughtful. I’m fun. I have excellent taste in films and food and songs and books. Why wouldn’t I want to spend time with someone like that?

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  • Mel

    Great post! Over the last year I’ve really grown due to spending time alone so I completely agree 🙂

    November 6, 2016 at 3:27 pm Reply
  • walkiria

    I simply love this post. So many great insights so candidly shared with us. I appreciate your openness of your heart so much!

    There is a difference between being alone and being lonely. There is something almost magical about being alone with yourself and connecting to your own inner bliss. This connection can only be found when your are totally by yourself.

    November 6, 2016 at 7:48 pm Reply
  • Valerie J Runyan

    Hi Bianca-

    I’m Valerie and I have always loved being alone because my life was always filled with other people! for a houseful of sisters to marriage and two children to another marriage with a husband who couldn’t stand to be alone (did not know that before marring him-otherwise I would not have) to now being single in a new suburban community. I feel like I am finally breathing and writing sooo much and submitting like mad- I’m finally happy!

    November 6, 2016 at 8:11 pm Reply
  • Rosey

    Hi Bianca

    Every word of this article hits home. I agree with you about knowing yourself and connecting to the world. I’ve been on many trips alone, eaten alone and untaken many activites alone. It develops your personality. I was a shy hermit but being alone really draws it out. The opposite of the misconception that being alone means your are boring or have no personality.

    I love all your essays.

    November 7, 2016 at 2:50 pm Reply
  • Alex | Life Well Wandered

    Great post! I definitely identify with this article, especially this quote “Being alone is like a backbone. You have to work at it and the rewards will follow.”. I used to struggle with being alone, always worrying about what other people would think if i spent the weekend alone or ate alone. But now I embrace being alone and I find it makes me stronger and happier!

    November 7, 2016 at 4:03 pm Reply
  • Petra-Esque

    I love this post. Why? I totally enjoy spending time with me. I am freaking fabulous!

    November 7, 2016 at 9:49 pm Reply
  • Joselin Garcia

    I just faound your blog and now I can’t stop reading!

    November 11, 2016 at 5:31 pm Reply
  • Lucy

    Just discovered your blog today – it’s like you’re inside my head! Absolutely love your writing, especially this post.

    November 15, 2016 at 2:08 pm Reply
    • biancabass

      Thank you so much, Lucy. I appreciate your support more than I can say 🙂

      November 27, 2016 at 9:17 pm Reply

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