There was once a time when I would get self-conscious going out and doing things by myself. Eating out, travelling, going to events, etc. were things that I would only do solo out of sheer necessity. For instance, I went to the Molson Ampitheatre (now the Budweiser Stadium) in 2006 to see my favourite Japanese band Dir en grey perform at the Family Values Tour by myself as my family just moved to Canada a few months prior. I did not know a lot of people then, and the only fellow J-rock fans that I know were the ones that I have met online (shoutout to the Dir en grey Livejournal Community). It turned out to be one of the best things that I have done. Have I allowed my self-consciousness and social anxiety to win, I would have missed the chance to meet two life-long friends and other future J-rock concert lineup buddies.
It wasn’t until a few years later, after a life-changing experience, that I started to appreciate doing things by myself. When a serious relationship fell apart, I initially wanted to just create happy memories to get through the heartache. And then slowly, it started to evolve as a project of self-discovery and improvement. I wanted to define myself as a unique individual, and not as a part of a unit. I challenged myself to try new things that I would never normally do, especially alone. As a perfectionist, I figured it would be best to try things on my own first, instead of making a blunder in front of someone I know.
My first step to healing and self-discovery was travelling solo. At 27, I have been to different countries, but never alone. Growing up, I lived a very sheltered life. When we were in the Philippines, I never learned my way around as I never really had to take the public transportation by myself. I would either be driven around, or I would get a cab if no one was available to give me a ride. The only time I would take public transportation was when I would take the bus to the university, two hours away from home. I was renting an apartment with a few other friends in campus so I would come back home once a week. I only knew two routes: the way to school, and the way back home. For the most part, my dad would pick me up at the bus station whenever I come home. So imagine my family’s concern when I told them that I wanted to go away by myself. I told them I needed that time to get to know me better, and they thought I would get abducted. After much discussion, they eventually caved and off I flew to Barcelona.
It was my first time to plan an entire trip, and I loved it. I did my due diligence and researched on cheap flights, places to go, and things to do. I booked a private room at a travellers’ lodge, two minutes away from the Metro station. It was a very central location, and I was within walking distance to Las Ramblas and the shopping area. Being that I was in Barcelona, I made sure to buy tickets to watch a La Liga game and see Lionel Messi in the flesh (he was incredible, by the way). I was so enamoured that I even bought a second ticket, this time for their Champions League home game. I was there for a week, and it was one of the most memorable days of my life.
That trip made me realize how therapeutic and enjoyable solo travelling was. I was not working on anyone else’s schedule, so I got to dictate my own itinerary. If I felt like sleeping in, I slept in and did not feel guilty about it. If I wanted to take my time eating just to watch people pass by, I did just that. If I wanted to go back to the Camp Nou for the third time, no one stopped me. I walked around the city, bought their two-day hop on/off tickets so I could mark the places that I wanted to revisit or spend more time in. I met a couple of Korean chicks while club hopping, hung out with Estonians on a road trip at a bar (while listening to one dude’s breakup story), and had beer with Germans after a football win. I have tried things that I would normally not have done before and tested the limits of my comfort zone. I thought, no one knew me anyway… therefore no one would really care if I fucked up or did something embarrassing. It proved to be an effective personal mantra, and I have been applying it for all of my trips since then.
After that great start, I wanted to continue the journey of self-discovery when I returned home. For the first twenty-something years of my life, I never did anything athletic. I never considered myself to be a sporty person, and the only form of physical activity that I enjoyed doing was dancing. Earlier that year, I signed up for two 5km runs with my girlfriends. After those events turned out to be huge successes, I figured I might as well continue the habit of being physically active.
It was a good thing that my friends were very supportive of me. As a gift, I received class passes for pole dancing for me to try out. I fell in love with pole as soon as I tried it and the rest is history. I was doing it for two years, until I moved to a new job and had to cancel my membership for logistic reasons. But for those two years, I was the fittest and strongest version of myself. I got addicted to the endorphin rush. Going to the studio and working out was my drug. I loved challenging myself physically: I learned new tricks and choreographies, and even participated in a few showcase performances. Being surrounded by empowering and supportive women gave me a confidence boost.
When I moved to my new office, I knew I needed to continue doing something that will keep me physically active. Since I was working at the Financial District, traffic was always a pain to deal with. That’s why I needed to do something to keep me occupied while I wait for the rush hour traffic to die down. That was the time when I started discovering (and loving) more physical activities: hot yoga, Crossfit, regular and hot pilates, and dancing. I even participated in two showcase performances.
Slowly, I started enjoying solo activities more and more. Especially for tasks like shopping or working out, I actually preferred doing them on my own. It felt good to have things that I could do on my own, where I didn’t have to worry about making sure other people are comfortable or enjoying themselves. It also gave me a chance to be more social, as I got to meet new people. And while I still like eating out with company, I now don’t mind discovering new restaurants and trying new places out by myself either. I usually utilize the time to catch up on some reading, or simply get lost in my own thoughts.
Whatever the activity is, I realized importance of enjoying one’s own company. It’s not a bad idea to be left to your own devices once in a while. Sometimes, we get inundated with too much information that we need some time to process our thoughts and listen to our own needs. It took me some time to realize this, and even longer to fully enjoy it. It’s not an easy task to lose the self-consciousness, the anxiety, or the fear of judgment. Trust me, I am still working on that every single day. But we are given this lifetime to work on ourselves. It is when we are stagnant and unchanging that we become boring. And truthfully, life is too short to be boring. Think about this next time you request for a table for one.