Nothing makes me feel more alone than eating by myself. I would love to be one of those people who can go to dinner or the movies alone. I have a friend who even goes to concerts alone. But that is not me. Being alone generally leads me to loneliness.
So, as I sat alone today for both breakfast and lunch in a crowded cafeteria at a yoga conference, I had to push back the inevitable, deep-rooted insecurities that cropped up. Feelings made even stronger by the fact that today is my birthday.
The reality is that I chose solitude as my gift this year. I wanted to start this last year in my 30s doing something I have wanted to do for years but was too afraid to do. I could have sat with people—introducing myself as I did last night at dinner and having a lovely conversation—but today wasn’t about making small talk with strangers.
Although being alone on my birthday was my choice, in the dining hall, I had a hard time accepting it. The slew of birthday wishes on Facebook, through text messages and on voicemails didn’t seem to alleviate my discontent. Somehow I was still the girl eating by herself. Somehow within me still lies a shy, self-deprecating 15-year-old terrified of having no friends or, more accurately, of people thinking she has no friends.
Since today is my birthday, I could cry if I want to (and I did want to a few times), but I won’t. I will smile at the needy girl I once was—the one whose confidence could so easily be shaken and who apparently still lurks in the shadows of my soul. I will resist the urge to immediately call a friend as if I’m on a game show just because I need outside validation that I matter.
Instead I will sit in this solitude that I have chosen. I will think kindly, as the yoga guru said last night, of all of the people I hold in my heart. And I will know that though my physical being is alone, my inner self is full and far from lonely. In my little dorm-style room, I will raise a plastic cup of Malbec to the woman I have become—the one who had the courage to go beyond the boundaries of her comfort zone.
Happy birthday, my friend.