Dining Alone is Not Scary

By Christina Kim - October 08, 2014

I used to shy away from the thought of sitting alone at a cafe, and having to gulp down my food and drinks while surrounded by people who are laughing in groups, with their company of family or friends; well, pretty much not alone.
The thought of dining alone makes me feel like a loner, and that in a way, seemed rather sad.
In fact, the thought of staring at my plate and cup, terrorizes me (shying away was just a rather amicable way of describing the feeling to start this post), and that is enough to make me shut down thoughts or even the idea of having to dine alone.
Nope, it never even crossed my mind and I would rather starve myself to death (yes, even if I was terribly hungry) than sit there alone; just the very sight of the mental picture of that makes me cringe, uncomfortably. It is Just that morbid to me.

While there are many I have seen (and obviously are just so used to it) minding their own businesses in the corners of the cafes, restaurants or even roadside stalls, indulging in their meal by themselves (by that I mean, alone and by one self), totally unfazed by the surrounding atmosphere and the staring eyes, I still could not grapple with the idea of myself in that very same position.
I am not sure if that sums up a kind of disorder I could probably have (I am such a cyberchondriac sometimes), or whether I just have this kind of social anxiety when I am surrounded by people?

Well, recently due to work schedule and also the arrangements to my working location where I am subject to being more mobile, which in a way is good and I enjoy the fresh air outside the office, but there is a problem. I would need to have to find my place; a place where I can work and most of the time, this means places with free Internet connection and usually synonyms with modern cafes.
Read cafes like Starbucks, Coffee Bean where you can enjoy a cuppa in your very own corner with a book or your laptop, with that free wifi hovering over your signals.
Now, if I am lucky, I would be working with another colleague or we could be engaged in a discussion where we arrange to meet up at a specific location and I could end up with company in a cafe where I am definitely, and delightedly, not alone.
That, would be an average best case scenario and it lasted for a couple of times.

What happens when we have our very own schedules; or conflicting schedules? (Not an unusual situation for individuals at work, with different sets of job responsibilities and expectations to be met)
That is when I would most probably (and surely) end up on my own, looking for that space or that corner in a cafe with Internet connection.
It sounded a little weird to me at first, and then I just decided, I just wanted to try it out.

Okay, I have to admit, my little experiment only involved cafes like Dome, Coffee Bean, and probably Starbucks where sitting alone is so common and definitely in no way makes one look like a loner. However, for a first-timer like me, it was definitely the most pilot-friendly place to kick start my attempt at chilling out with a drink and a muffin, alone.
(Anyway, it wasn't really the first time I was technically alone, as I have traveled on numerous business trips which required me to spend time on my own at airports, lounges, hotel breakfasts, but I have never really just zoned out on my own in a corner in a cafe/restaurant besides those mentioned).

It was not bad, at all, to my surprise, and I have even listed the reasons why dining or even chilling out alone can be enjoyable, and honestly, not scary, at all...

1. You get to spend quality time with yourself 
I mean like alone time; not that I never connect or see myself (in the mirror) every day, but I mean, like really enjoying that time and space, alone. No disruption, no need for small talk, but just enjoying that quiet moment for myself.

2. You get to take your own pace with your drink/food
Remember those times when you would wanted a few more moments with your drink, but ended up gulping it down because your friends decided that they wanted to leave all of a sudden?
Well, when you're alone, it won't happen, because you have ALL the time in the world, because it's your time and this is a no-brainer, you are in your own world.

3. You totally are in your Own World
Forget about the people around the cafe, they don't exist (unless they come up to you to ask you if they could borrow the chair, or if they are asking for directions to the counter - really?).
When you are focused on your book, or laptop, or phone, you can totally block out all those commotion around you.
(If you are a lady, you might want to pay more attention to this one, and be a little more alert to your surroundings - I will share a story of my own in another post).

4. You get much more done when you're alone
You have no idea how much work I got done (I cleared my inbox of all the pending emails, and even got to the planning/organizing of my upcoming tasks). I felt pretty good about that.
Apart from work, I could have gone on to read an entire book if I were to just sit there, uninterrupted and away from my phone :-)

This one's the Fun part...

5. You develop stronger and more acute/sharper senses of your surroundings 
This is referring to the times when you look up, trying to take a quickie from your work/book, and you start to 'see', 'hear' (not eavesdropping), and even 'feel' the atmosphere and the people around you. It is fun watching the other people around you in action, and who knows, they are probably envious that you get that space and quiet time while they are hanging around with their friends.

For whatever reason, I found that I have accomplished my mission and I am even starting to enjoy this little moment that I am even starting to look forward to working and just hanging out, with, you know, myself.
It is all about that space, and one self (without that overwhelming element of narcissism).
It is all about that temporary bubble in time and in space.

I am feeling a little bolder now, and I think I might just try out that restaurant thing soon....
Done with the chilling, now with the dining, and by that I mean, with a challenge of a full blown meal in a restaurant where people go in groups?
I am definitely braving the norm now....
(Another post maybe, when that mission is accomplished?)

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