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The Difference Between being Alone and Lonely

The Difference Between being Alone and Lonely

Photography: Judie Vegh, OyVegh Photography 

The holidays are near. Time to redownload the dating apps and squeeze in a few dates before Christmas so you can honestly say you’re seeing someone when your wine-drunk Aunt Lisa condescendingly asks where your date is in front of the whole family like she hasn’t been divorced twice. Ignore her, she has ferrets.

The thought of being alone this time of year terrifies most people because of the stigma that goes along with that word. For most, just the word “alone” cues up Celine Dion’s “All by Myself.” For whatever reason, we as a society equate being alone with being lonely, when the two couldn’t be more different. We don’t equate being hungry with starving, so why are the implications of being alone just as drastic?

Two years ago, I had a very different lifestyle. I was engaged, working two jobs to save up for a wedding, and rarely doing stand-up comedy. My fiance would generally work until 6 or 7 p.m. and I had a gross excitement for having the house cleaned and dinner ready by the time he got home. Disgusting, I know. Most nights we would eat, have a few drinks, watch some garbage TV, and go to bed. Once or twice a week, we would meet friends at the bar for wing night or do cookouts on Sundays for Browns games, which ultimately turned into drinking whiskey straight out of the bottle because, “He’s got no coverage out there!”

I was surrounded by great people and the man that I loved and rarely spent any time alone. However, these were some of the loneliest years of my life. The fact that I was always with people didn’t fill the void I felt inside. What was missing? How could I have everything and still feel so empty? The mere presence of others wasn’t what I was craving. I wasn’t being satisfied on a much deeper level. It wasn’t until I was single that I realized that.

As someone who now spends the majority of her time solo, I admit that getting used to it can take time. When I first hit the road for comedy, I thought that everyone who saw me drinking alone at the bar assumed I was an alcoholic or that my date was a no show. Or both. I would hesitate to go see a movie by myself because of what the 16-year-old box office employee might think when I asked for a single ticket at the movies—literally a place where not socializing is encouraged.  

These apprehensions are ridiculous. In an age of social media, we think that everyone is constantly watching and judging, but on Twitter and in real life, people are just passively scanning what others do to avoid their own shitshow of a life. The fact that you ordered a chicken salad sandwich at a dive bar by yourself is the least of their worries. Seriously though, make smarter food choices.

I have never in my life spent this much time isolated, and I have never in my life been more fulfilled. I am so grateful and lucky to have found my passion. I understand that not everyone has that crazy dream they’re chasing, but that doesn’t mean you can’t take time to do things for yourself.

You don’t have to be a nut job like me driving 11 hours to Minnesota to seek the attention of strangers, but you can take some time and embrace the little things that make you happy. Take an extra yoga class or enjoy a glass of wine at home with a good movie.

If you’re single out there and desperately trying to find love, it’s okay. Just because you’re physically alone right now, doesn’t mean you have to be lonely. Dating is the absolute worst. I get it. I lose my mind when a guy I’m into doesn’t text me back for hours at a time, but watches my entire Instagram story. You mean to tell me that the exact same phone you’re using to like my pictures can’t open my texts and send me a gif of Dumb and Dumber? That’s the kind of shit that makes me sympathize with the women on Snapped.

I hate the cliche that you can’t truly love someone until you truly love yourself, but the more I pursue my dream and work on myself, the more that nonsense rings true. Take time this season to put yourself first and get comfortable with you. I promise you won’t regret it.

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