While most restaurants will always serve a lone customer whether at the bar or a table, individuals who dine alone are often given a side glance of empathy with thoughts of “Oh, he/she must be single and just needing to eat tonight. Maybe we should talk to him/her.” I’m not blind to doing this myself, shuffling through potential scenarios that question intentions. We need to remove this flawed way of thinking. Nothing is awkward or strange about an individual dining or being alone. Most of us may crave companionship but the ability to sit and reflect – alone – is something that is often overlooked in our busy, busy, busy lives.
Just yesterday (or 4 weeks ago as this has sat in drafts), I was walking through San Francisco with a friend when we sat down on avery modern cement bench at USF. As we sat in silence, I realized that I was constantly trying to think of something to talk about and engage in conversation, even asking the dreaded question of, “What are we doing here?” She responded with the simple, “Just being.” Far too often we ignore being in face of doing. We think that we are our best when we are with others, in conversation, in action but if we refuse to just be, we cannot do the others (at least well). This is a constant struggle for me that I’m trying to improve upon in this next year.
We don’t always need to be swarmed by others and in constant conversation; being alone does not mean being lonely. In moving to San Francisco knowing only a handful of people, this idea is one that I became more and more comfortable with, but even in those “alone” moments, I was still wanting to do. It was as if I needed constant stimulation above my usual mind wanderings. And as I think really about what my mind began to wander to in those moments when I do think, the topics seem rather surface level. I realized that I was not really digging into some of the deeper topics that both interest me and that I come into contact with daily: the income inequality rampant in San Francisco, the treacherous traffic that plagues my mornings and evenings, the psychology of interaction and friendship. After a few moments of thought, I’d skip onto another topic or thought, failing to really challenge my brain. So the question becomes, “how do I delve into such genuine, solid thoughts when I’m both alone and with friends and colleagues?”
Meals are a time to bring people together for terrific conversation, the food serving as the center piece, though I think often overshadowed by the presence of others. So, what’s the allure of a dinner with yourself that is sure to be introspective? Well, it’s just that. A moment to have that same dialogue with ourselves, to pose those same questions, challenge our preexisting thoughts, and then continue to wonder without coming up with just the exact words or responses. It’s something I need to do more – without a laptop or phone by my side. Perhaps I’ll need to head over to Amsterdam to do so.
“Simplicity is about subtracting the obvious and adding the meaningful.” ―John Maeda
image: eenmaal (Facebook)