I’ve been having adventures alone.
I go to a college filled with people who care a lot about football. It’s not that I don’t care about football, but I don’t care. Not like that. Every game day the streets are filled with these obnoxious people and for the first few times you see it, it’s mesmerizing. Look at all this sea of people wearing the same colored shirts, high five-ing each other, acting like such a happy family even though they’ve never seen each other. The energy is amazing! But after a while the tailgates, the screaming, the same pep songs, and the smell of whiskey gets old. How do you even remember the score when you’re so drunk?
So it was another game day. I woke up and I looked outside, and I knew I had to leave there as soon as I possibly could and go far away for the day.
I don’t have a lot of friends here. Well, I do have friends, I am just bad at being friends with them, simply because nobody has really taught me how to do things properly and I’m afraid I’m doing it incorrectly. How do I propose an idea? How do I make plans? What do I say? Besides, those people might ruin my day anyway. What if they complain? Or have another idea of fun? Or don’t want to be so spontaneous? Or simply talk too much rather than enjoy every second?
So, I come to this irrational conclusion that I will enjoy myself more on my own, and so I go alone. And I explore.
I’ve explored crevices of this campus that people who have been at this school for years can’t recognize. I’ve found the very best rocks to sit on next to the river and I’ve been to graveyards that are filled with headstones much older than this city and with grand stories to tell. I’ve explored wetlands and shopping malls and I can tell you where every Kroger is. I’ve been to pocket parks and different library branches of this city, whereas most people haven’t even been to one.
So, I go out and I go exploring. It’s kind of brave of me. No one would do these things alone. Even to go to the movies or a show alone is frowned upon. So, if you don’t have someone to go with, or if you’re somewhat phobic of asking people like me, you just don’t go. Not me. I go anyway.
It’s weird to go alone but even weirder at certain events than at others. I’ll go to improv shows and free concerts and grand pep rallies or watch parties and I even once went to an all night Dance a thon knowing no one. I’ve seen celebrities come on campus but I don’t whisper next to a friend because I’m there alone. For those things, people always say you’ll make a friend there, but honestly, you don’t really. Not unless you know you’ll bump into someone you know or at least are aquatinted with. No one goes alone. If you don’t have someone to go with, you don’t go. Not me. I’ve forced myself to go.
There’s definitely downsides to this all. You can start confidently but the loneliness will creep in on you. You’ll think people are staring at you and you have to force yourself not to play on your phone. Sure, you can introduce yourself to people but there’s always that “did she come alone” thought. You worry you’re coming on too strong sometimes (one time I said, “hey, I’m gonna sit here, do you guys want to be my best friends?) or you’re not giving the opportunity to yourself (sometimes I just nod at people and then sink in my chair). In fact, even when you don’t hide or acknowledge the fact that you’ve come alone, others seem off put by that–besides the fact that people will tell you over and over that you should go out, you’ll meet people! I’m sure I’m doing something wrong, but I’m not sure how much I care to find out what. I’m on my own schedule. I come, I enjoy myself, I leave. I’ll try momentarily, but people retreat back into the people they came with and I retreat back into myself.
Often, if I do end up talking to people, I will say something like “my friends left earlier” or “I don’t know where my friends are” or “my friends backed out” and that seems to equalize it in my head. But I never have someone to consistently talk to or point things out to or joke with or lead. And I’ll look around at others and feel deflated. Never do I regret going (only once I think I have) after it’s over, but sometimes when it’s going on I can feel kind of miserable. I may have said this but I’ll reiterate it: I know I am not the only one who has a hard time finding people to go places with. I just know that I’m very rare in the fact that I go anyway.
Back to gameday: I went to Yelp and looked up some good coffee shops and ended up in a nice one 15 minutes off campus and in a different section of town. The city is divided into many districts, such as the University District or Downtown, and those districts are even divided further into different communities with distinct names–Hilltop, Linden, etc. You can watch the income levels change as you cross lines.
The coffee shop was nice, but I made a mistake by ordering coffee. I don’t like coffee. So there I was, with coffee, not having eaten lunch, and just looking around at the other people. It wasn’t a big deal to be alone there at all. I thought I would spend the day there studying but I couldn’t stand it and left. With my backpack on I went around the neighborhood. I stopped in the elementary school and played on their playground and took a nap and felt alone. Then I kept walking somberly–this time through streets and drives and houses with such unique character. People were walking dogs or working outside and I imagined myself in those houses but saw nothing on sale to fulfill that fantasy. I pretended my sisters were walking with me or (of course) my ex. I really wished I had a dog and that made me sad because I couldn’t get one. That made me hate my apartment. Then I came to a beautiful church and I couldn’t get inside the chapel but I sat on the wooden bench outside next to it’s flower bed, and listened to the bells chime different tunes. Finally I found Kroger and I knew where I was again. I walked inside Kroger and then I thought I’d find the library but instead I went into local shops. One craft store I spent way too much time in. Another was a bookstore that was truly magical. There were very high shelves and just stacks and stacks and stacks of books. The floors were wooden and an older lady sat at a desk and later on one elderly man appeared, virtually out of no where, and began to talk to me. I really thought the place belonged in the world of Harry Potter, and I could see the walls being cleaned and books being stacked only with wands. I found so many things I wanted to show people but I didn’t get anything because they only accepted cash and I had only $2–which I used on laundry later that evening.
I had to be kicked out of the bookstore because it was closing and by that time I finally went back, and there were still too many people, but I was pleased–really I was. I want everyday to have these adventures. Maybe I won’t have stories of goofing around in college with friends to tell my children about, but I can take them anywhere and show them things not many others have bothered to discover.
I still feel very, very much alone, but I am working on it, and that’s all I can say. I feel myself to be terrified of the idea of it getting cold outside, because that means that I won’t be able to be outside as much.
But until then, I vow to make memories, to go on adventures even if I can’t find someone to explore with me. To walk until I get lost or find another Kroger. To talk to strangers and waste time and spend frugally. To go to places I needn’t go to without purpose and leave my shadow at each place, leave a little bit of myself that I can come back for one other day.