Spending a long weekend alone.
December 31, 2008 7:25 AM   Subscribe

I'm off work the next four days over the New Year's holiday & weekend. I am usually a very social person, but I live alone and I don't have much of anything planned this weekend. And I'm worried about spending the whole weekend alone, because I think I will get really lonely and unhappy. How can I enjoy myself?

I've reached out to a few friends to hang out, but have no commitments yet and may get none. I usually go out swing dancing on the weekend, which gives me lots of social interaction, but there's nothing this weekend. I live alone in a 2-room studio that can sometimes feel a little claustrophobic/isolating and I get cabin fever if I spend too much time alone there, especially if I don't have something social to look forward to.

So I'm worried about getting bored and depressed and feeling lonely the whole time this weekend, which would be pretty awful and unbearable. I usually keep myself pretty busy outside the house, probably in order to avoid this type of discomfort, so with this weekend not having much in the way of busy-ness, I'm at a loss for what to do with myself and how to cope.

I have the option to spend a few hundred dollars and go away to a dance conference at a hotel for these days, which would surround me with people and activities. (Mostly people I don't know, but there’d be a couple of friends.) But I am afraid I'd just be running away from a problem that I would benefit from solving.

It can get pretty bad with long times alone at home without plans. Feeling very sorry for myself, like no one loves me, like I am all alone and no one cares, like I am wasting my time, like I am trapped there alone and unhappy. To alleviate this on normal weekends, I often go to a cafe with my laptop just so I can be around people. But I can only do that for so long (not for 4 days!) and we're looking at bad weather this weekend (snow and extreme cold) so it won't be easy to go out of the house. Plus, most public places will be closed tomorrow for New Year’s holiday.

So I guess my question is, is there a way that I can overcome this loneliness/sadness/worry this weekend and really enjoy all this unstructured responsibility-free alone time? How would I spend the time? It sounds like it should be a wonderful thing but it is just making me really anxious, as you can tell.

Or would it just be better for me to give in to my need to be around people and go to this dance conference? Sorry for the length; I appreciate your advice!
posted by inatizzy to Human Relations (19 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
If you want to be around people, go to the dance conference. There's nothing wrong with not wanting to spend four days alone. Your desire to socialize does not equal running away from alone time, and I don't get the impression that you avoid spending any time by yourself (which would be a little worrisome).
posted by amro at 7:37 AM on December 31, 2008

Seconding the dance conference. If you don't want to be alone, sometimes you have to really make an effort to put yourself out there. If you stay at home, you know what will happen. But who knows what will happen if you go?
posted by hazyjane at 7:39 AM on December 31, 2008

I hear you. I'm spending the weekend alone, too, and I always end up feeling cabinfeverish when I'm stuck inside during the winter. I'd say that if you want to stay home you could try going to coffeeshops for warm tea or coffee and a little people watching. You could go to church if you wanted, or you could volunteer somewhere. I usually feel like crap if I am not being useful, even when I'm on vacation. I think it's also totally okay to be lazy if you have the opportunity. Sometimes it makes me feel like crap, but you can't always sit on the couch and watch tv all day, so why not do it when you can? If you do stay home just make sure to go out and speak to people at least once a day to ward off the loneliness.
posted by big open mouth at 7:42 AM on December 31, 2008

Note: if you have a few hundred dollars to spend why not do something with it? Take some art classes (if you look online you might be able to find something at your local college) or go horseback riding.

Whatever you do, have fun!
posted by big open mouth at 7:43 AM on December 31, 2008

Nthing that there's nothing wrong with going to the dance conference. It's not "giving in", and the need to be around people is not a flaw. But! If you do decide to stay home you could...

...do a self-guided mindfulness retreat from this book.

...think of the four days as four separate things. For example: one day to indulge yourself with unhealthy food and DVDs; one day to clear off a list of chores you've been meaning to get round to; one day to phone or email friends you've been meaning to stay in touch with; one day to get some laptop work done in a cafe.

...get out of the house, lots. Yeah, yeah, bad weather, so you need to be safe and well-wrapped-up and everything. All but the most extreme bad weather is exciting and dramatic and inspiring and fun, though. Really go outside.
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 7:44 AM on December 31, 2008 [2 favorites]

Well sitting at home in front of your laptop isn't going to do it.

Sorry, I'm a girl and this is stuff I'd do so some of it is a bit girly...but here it goes:

- Places may be closed tomorrow but that's probably the only day out of the four...find stuff to do on Saturday and Sunday (have you done some kind of event search locally? there's always something going on somewhere) and get yourself out and about today - there have to be errands to run or at least go for a walk before the weather gets bad.

- Once the weather gets bad call people you haven't spoken to in ages and catch up

- Get a good book to read.

- Bake something.

- Have a pampering day - hot bath, pamper yourself, do your nails or whatever

In short do something nice you don't normally have time to do.
posted by koahiatamadl at 7:48 AM on December 31, 2008

Your profile says you live in Cambridge, MA. I'm gunna assume that's your location then. I've never been, but a google search pulled up a few generic things to do. Personally, and you can take this with a grain of salt since I'm a homebody with an overactive imagination that makes it impossible for me to ever be bored alone or otherwise, I'd suggest heading down to the bookstore and picking up a good book or two. Have you read House of Leaves or Ishmael or Ain't Nobody's Business If You Do? Reading expands the mind! Maybe using this time to catch up on a few good novels would make you feel like your valuable alone time wasn't wasted. Or maybe watch a good movie - a few of my recent favorites have been Let The Right One In, The Room, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, and The Fall. Have you checked to see if there's any good concerts coming to town? Or maybe hit a comedy club?
Mostly though, you should know that being alone shouldn't be feared. I used to hate being alone, and then I got married and now we're working on kids and I know I'll probably never be alone again. So on those rare days when I get home from work earlier than my wife or she's off doing something, I cherish every second (mostly by playing Fallout 3). You don't know what you've got till it's gone. ;) Enjoy your you time and have a happy New Year!
posted by Bageena at 7:51 AM on December 31, 2008

I just read the last post and saw you live in Cambridge. I lived on Brattle when I was growing up, so I thought I'd suggest some place-specific suggestions. How about the MFA down by Northeastern or go to the Aquarium? You could even take a train into NYC for a day, or you could go shopping on Newbury St. If you feel like exploring then take the 74 bus into Belmont Center (past Fresh Pond-- it's all the way at the end of the line) and walk around there. I lived there when I was little in the big house behind Macy's and Greg's, the pizza place, is fantastic. There's also a great clothing store called Garment District down by MIT that has cheap and kooky clothes and is a fun trip to make. You can walk there, but it's a bit far away. Then of course there's always grabbing a pizza or burrito in the Garage or getting a coffee in the COOP.

Go do something fun for me! I miss Harvard sq like crazy, I'm all the way down here in Georgia.
posted by big open mouth at 8:03 AM on December 31, 2008

Has it been awhile since you redecorated or rearranged your apartment? I've done the studio living thing, and I completely understand the claustrophobia you describe. Keeping in mind that you are hoping to "solve" this, perhaps it's time to renew your living space. Buy some plants. Change the lighting. Surround yourself with some new things, put a comfy reading chair by a different window, and change the way it feels in there.
posted by juliplease at 8:20 AM on December 31, 2008

I'm the opposite of you -- I love my me time and go crazy without it, and I'm REALLY looking forward to four days on my own this weekend. BUT! Things I really enjoy doing to get out of the house are going to dinner and movies by myself. Took me a while to work my way up to being willing to do that -- movies were harder for me than restaurants, for some reason -- but it gets me out around people. Usually I take a book with me to read at restaurants, so that entertains me, though it's happened occasionally that when I go out to eat, especially at semi-causal places for brunch on weekends, that someone will ask to share my table with me, so you end up meeting people to talk to. I also find that going to nicer places where they usually seat single people at the bar instead of at a table present an excellent opportunity to get to know the bartender. And this is all in Boston/Cambridge, too.

Alternatively, organize a last-minute Boston meetup! I'd go.
posted by olinerd at 8:32 AM on December 31, 2008 [1 favorite]

I hear you on not wanting to go stir crazy, but I'm honestly looking forward to that much alone time (my roommate does not return from his family visit until mid-January). I actually am eagerly looking forward to spending all New Year's Day giving the apartment a good thorough cleaning.

But I do find that far from being a chore, I find the kind of cleaning/decluttering/straightening/organizing projects I'll be doing to be very emotionally and spiritually grounding. You know -- getting everything all set up exactly the way I want it, all settled and organized, and the kitchen all stocked with lots of really good home-cooked pre-made food that I simply have to heat up in the microwave to be able to eat, and so for the next couple weeks home is now going to be a true haven filled with good things that are all just for me.

Not everyone sees house chores like this in this fashion, I grant. But it's what I do.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:52 AM on December 31, 2008 [1 favorite]

I am afraid I'd just be running away from a problem that I would benefit from solving.

Humans are social animals! You're not going to "solve" your desire for company. Go have fun. :)
posted by salvia at 8:56 AM on December 31, 2008

My way of avoiding cabin fever lonliness is to have a specific goal or two for each day. Often cooking something awesome can do it, if I include going to the store for ingredients for a nice walk and fresh air.
posted by Gor-ella at 8:57 AM on December 31, 2008 [1 favorite]

(Other cheap ideas for getting out -- gyms provide a social setting for a couple hours, if you like to stretch or workout or use a sauna, and those cost like $15 for a one-day pass. Some hot springs cost around $30 a night if you camp out.)
posted by salvia at 9:03 AM on December 31, 2008

Best answer: You sound like an extrovert, and there's certainly nothing wrong with that. I am one too, and have been in exactly your position.

A few things:

As others have said, go to the dance conference if you can afford it and you really want to. That said, one trap that we extroverts can get ourselves into is going out and doing things we don't really feel like doing just to avoid being alone. You can end up spending money you don't want to and keeping unhealthy, unrewarding friendships so that you have people to be around. This can be really draining, even for someone who gets energy from interpersonal relationships.

So if this is something you think you want to work on - and like I said, I don't necessarily think it's a bad thing to prefer being around people - this weekend could be a good chance. But I do think it's a good idea to give the days some structure. Maybe even make youself a schedule now, if that helps, so that if you start to freak out you can look at it and say, it's ok, tonight I'm going to see Slumdog Millionaire at the Davis Sq Theater.

A few other suggestions for what to actually do with your time:
- Spend a few hours in the Coop. God, I love that place.
- go to the Gardner Museum, or one of the Harvard Museums if they're open.
- take the T to the Boston Common movie theater and gorge yourself on movies. See three for the price of one matinée. Go to Chacareros first to get a sandwich to smuggle in.

- Have a cooking day! Spend some of that dance conference money on a trip to Whole Foods to buy some really good quality ingredients for two or three ambitious dishes you've never made before. Freeze the leftovers, of course.

BTW, I'm in Boston too and vote yes for a meetup!
posted by lunasol at 9:52 AM on December 31, 2008 [1 favorite]

One more idea and one more thing about being an extrovert:

Idea: Cambridge is lousy with yoga studios and meditation centers. I find it's basically impossible to feel that bad after a really great yoga class, so you might want to start each day with a yoga class.

Thing about being an extrovert: this is why I've realized I don't like living alone. I just spent the last year living on my own, and while it was really fun at first to be free of annoying roommates, I pretty quickly realized it was not for me. Even the passing pleantries you exchange with a roommate can be enough to keep the need-to-see-people craving at bay.

And I imagine that, for what you pay for a studio in Cambridge you could probably get a large room in a nice house. Something to think about.

Um, obviously I have a lot to say about this. I'll shut up now, but feel free to email me if you want to chat about this stuff or want me to organize a meetup!
posted by lunasol at 10:05 AM on December 31, 2008

But I am afraid I'd just be running away from a problem that I would benefit from solving.

It can get pretty bad with long times alone at home without plans.

Consider the interpretation that struggling with bad feelings associated with long times alone at home is just normal and not a problem you have to solve other than finding ways to avoid long times alone at home. We're social animals. I agree with the suggestion that you just take advantage of the activity you've already identified and go to the dance conference.
posted by nanojath at 11:27 AM on December 31, 2008

Response by poster: Thank you SO much, everyone, for such supportive and helpful responses. I feel so relieved, honestly. I feel a little less like a weirdo for feeling this way about a weekend alone. lunasol especially hit the nail on the head.

I'm still deciding what to do. But I'm leaning towards staying here and trying out a lot of your suggestions for fun things I can do. (Hello to those of you in the area or formerly from it.) I think I can do it and enjoy it most of the time if I schedule at least one thing to "do" every day.

happy new year!
posted by inatizzy at 3:47 PM on December 31, 2008

Response by poster: Just thought I'd post a quick follow-up: I wound up spending the weekend at home and not going to the dance convention, and I am so glad that I did. First off, I did spend a good amount of time alone, and I did not feel as lonely as I thought I would. The time went by very quickly. That might in part be due to the fact that I made plans with friends as the weekend went on, even though I had almost no plans at the start. That usually doesn't happen (making plans last minute) because my friends and I are busy and usually plan things in advance, and we usually see each other at pre-scheduled things like swing dances. But it was so reassuring to see that even without those pre-scheduled dances, a number of my friends took initiative to reach out and hang out doing things besides dancing. I think I was feeling pretty insecure about it and this proved me wrong, which has been a big boost for me and has made the rest of my weekends much more enjoyable. (Before, if I had an empty weekend planned, I would worry about feeling lonely or isolated, but now I realize that there are people who would be happy to get together if I just called, and that even if I spend a day or two alone, it doesn't mean I don't have a solid social group. They're out there, I'm just not seeing them right now, and they're not going away. And I also have plenty of ability to entertain myself in those situations and really enjoy it.

For what it's worth, I'm actually already in therapy working on some issues regarding being hesitant to really get close to people and open myself up and trust them, and I think this is related to that, so I'm really glad I took the risk to stay home alone that weekend because it showed me that it really wasn't so bad. It was good lesson for me to learn.

Thanks to you all for your support and advice; it really helped me!
posted by inatizzy at 7:48 AM on January 31, 2009

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