When Was the Last Time You Were Alone?

The minute we wake up we’re checking our phones for Facebook and Twitter updates.

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When Was the Last Time You Were Alone?

Now that I’ve got your attention with that most emo of titles, we can begin.

How many times a week are you totally on your own, on purpose? And more than that, how often are you totally on your own, on purpose, without any distractions or agenda? Without your phone, a magazine, a TV show? I bet it’s a whole lot of never.

I’m the same, and I only recently realised it. When I used to walk to work every day, I had half an hour to get there and half an hour to get back. That was just me and the ol’ noggin full of random thoughts. Sometimes I’d listen to music, but mostly I enjoyed just having nothing to do except put one foot in front of the other.

An unexpected side-effect of going freelance is that I’m rarely idly alone. I have no commute. I work at home with my partner who works remotely as well. We have lunch together. It’s great as, but to be honest, I think I would get lonely if it was just me at home alone every day. But I haven’t got that hour of nothingness anymore.

Why does it matter? This is just my opinion, but I think we don’t give ourselves enough headspace. The minute we wake up we’re checking our phones for Facebook and Twitter updates. We put the telly on while we eat or have music on while we do housework. We fill our days with work, family, and friends. Being busy is a mark of success.

I’ve had a lot of s**t on my plate recently (apologies to anyone eating their dinner) and couldn’t figure out why I was feeling so overwhelmed, until someone pointed out to me that I never have any time where it’s just me, doing nothing.

So, I took my new awesome purple bike and rode it down the canal for 15 minutes until I was in the countryside and there wasn’t a soul to be seen. I sat at a lock. I felt self-conscious for some reason. I’d forgotten how to just sit and do nothing. I played with a bit of grass. I had a song in my head, a line from ‘1979’ by The Smashing Pumpkins. I sang it out loud. Then a bit louder. My voice sounded weird. Was that what it sounded like? It felt good.

Now I’m aware that that makes me sound a bit loony and I’m not saying everyone should go around belting out alt-rock hits while sitting on canal locks, but it made me feel better. Put your phone on silent, turn the TV off and just sit for 20 minutes.

Better yet, go outside and just walk for half an hour. See what weird and wonderful thoughts come into your head. More likely than not, it will be something mundane like a shopping list or a chore you need to do, but just let them come and go and enjoy the randomness. No agenda, no distractions. Just a bit of idle loneliness.