I'm Afraid of Being Lonely

Eating Brussels sprouts alone and listening to Adele is not the healthiest thing.
Publish date:
March 23, 2012
writing, sara benincasa, being alone, emotions, the office, forever alone

It's a strange thing, being alone. I'm not talking about being in an isolation chamber in the middle of a mountain cavern 1,000 miles from civilization. I'm talking about what I'm doing right now, what I'll soon be doing each and every day now that I'm leaving my office job to freelance: sitting in a room by myself with the window open, typing at a computer, and half-listening to the shrieks and giggles of the children playing outside.

I hear the seductive twinkling tune of the ice cream truck, bearer of all sorts of delicious precursors to cavities. I hear the cops who work on my block chatting about what they're doing for summer vacation this year.

I feel the rumble of my stomach and wonder if I'll finally get the single-portion cooking thing right when I make dinner tonight (I always make too much, as if someone is going to magically appear and demand roasted Brussels sprouts). I wonder if I'll set a table for one, or just eat standing up near the stove like I did the other night. I wonder if I'll remember that listening to Adele when I'm by myself (aside from her kickass song "Rumour Has It") inevitably makes me want to stab myself with a fork.

That's the kind of alone I'm talking about.

I've mostly lived alone for the past three years, when I moved out of my ex-boyfriend's apartment and into a place of my own. You'd think I'd be used to it by now, this alone thing, and to an extent I am. I love sleeping alone, having so much mattress real estate to myself. I love having 24-7-365 free and clear access to the bathroom, especially the bathtub.

I love coming and going as I please, without worrying about waking up roommates or, if we're thinking romantically, bedmates. I like decorating exactly as I please, and being as messy as I want. I enjoy the peace and quiet of no blasting television, the relief of no awkward encounters with roommates' boyfriends or visiting cousins at 7 a.m. in the hallway. Indeed, living alone can be quite pleasant.

But I don't love everything about it, this life spent largely by myself. And I've been thinking about it more often lately, as I prepare to leave my office job (which, granted, has been very part-time as other work has taken me on the road--that's a picture of me at the office taken by my girl

Rachel Fershleiser

) and go full-on with the home office thing, writing for various websites and, soon, my first YA novel (it's inspired by "The Great Gatsby" but set among modern teens in the Hamptons. I am nervous/excited, i.e., nervcited.)

In a sense, it sounds like a dream: wake up when I choose, wear pajamas to the "office," blog butt nekkid if I feel like it (note: I am currently wearing a fetching purple dress.) But there are trade-offs in any major career decision, and in this case what I'm trading off is time with other human beings.

I've been a high school teacher, a janitor, a tutor, a barista, personal assistant, a hair salon receptionist, a paralegal, and plenty of other things, but I've never stopped writing. Many times I've wished I could dispense with the other stuff and just be a writer. And now that I'm actually doing that, I finally appreciate one of the oft-overlooked, best things about working a "regular" job: other people.

It's the cliché that has launched a thousand and one sitcoms, but a group of coworkers can really become a family. There's sometimes a kind of sweet grandmotherly presence, and that's not necessarily the boss. It's the person who looks after everyone, makes sure there are cupcakes when someone has a birthday, inquires with actual interest when someone takes a sick day, and sometimes cracks the whip when the others are getting out of line. At work, your brothers and sisters are usually your coworkers. And if you've got an intern or an assistant, you might just find yourself in the role of a parent, or at least an older sibling or cousin.

Then there are office romances. I've never really had one of those, but I've been fascinated by them. Sometimes they go the way of Tim and Dawn on "The Office" (UK "The Office" love!), and other times they descend into a shitshow of gross. I suppose I could still get in on that action, although a home office romance would likely involve me emailing dirty poetry to myself.

Anyway. All this is just to say that I'm a little lonely sometimes by nature, and I'm worried I'll get a lot lonelier pretty soon. I'm not complaining, as it is a lifestyle choice I've made consciously, but I am asking for your advice on how to do it right. For a depresso like me, being alone isn't always the healthiest thing.

And I'm wondering if any of you have gone through periods of solo employment or perhaps even unemployment, and how you managed to do it. How did you arrange your day? Did you aggressively pursue coffee dates with friends? Did you befriend your postman and eagerly await his arrival each afternoon? Did you join clubs or community groups to supplement your social life?

Or did you do what I'm afraid I will do – sit on the couch, type away at your computer, and get mega-depressed? Let me know. I always appreciate your help. You're all very smart, you know.