Weeklyish Challengey Thingie: Do Stuff on My Own

April 14, 2013


You know how I’m always going on and on about how awesome it is to do stuff solo, like traveling? And how it’s super awesome because you can eat potato chips for dinner or be a total nerd and nobody has to know?

That is, of course, until you blather on endlessly about it on your blog and then everybody has to know. Whether or not they even want to know.

Well, you guys, it turns out I’m a big fat liar-pants.

You see, I haven’t exactly been flying solo since returning to the States this past summer.

I haven’t really done much solo traveling in the past nine months. The one big trip I’ve taken so far – to Washington, DC, and Durham, NC, this past winter – was spent visiting friends for the most part.

In fact, I haven’t really done much of anything by myself except for the occasional meal out or pants-shopping spree. After all, nobody needs to witness me attempting to shove my lower half into a pair of skinny jeans. And then eating a bucket of peanut butter cup ice cream for dinner afterwards because sometimes ice cream is the only thing that will dull the pain.

In fact, I rather wish I didn’t have to witness any of that myself.

Mind you, my not-doing-stuff-solo isn’t because I have a whole bunch of awesome friends around who are always volunteering to go out with me.

All in all, I have about three people I can regularly count on to do stuff with me.

And two of those people happen to be my parents.

I know I should be working harder on going out to meet new people and reconnecting with old friends in the area. But seeing as I’m not entirely sure how long I’ll be in Buffalo, I haven’t really been putting that much effort into my social life.

After all, I don’t want to get people all excited about me, and then up and leave. That would just be rude, wouldn’t it?

Obviously once you get to know me, you're never going to want me to leave. OBVIOUSLY.

Obviously once you get to know me, you’re never going to want me to leave. OBVIOUSLY.

The reason why I haven’t been doing much stuff on my own since my return is because it makes me feel a bit, umm, well, self-conscious.

It’s stupid.

I know.

You’d think six years of being the big, sweaty, white girl in Asia would have effectively cured me of any self-consciousness.

But doing stuff on my own in Asia was just one more weird thing I did that none of the locals really did – like eating cheese and running in public and regularly breaking out into hives. People were already staring at me – why not just give them one more thing to stare at me for?

But it’s different here.

There’s something about doing stuff on my own in the States which makes me feel like I’m the fourteen-year-old, new kid at school again. And nobody in the cafeteria wants to sit with me.

Probably because I’m wearing the shirt my mom made me. Which I thought was really awesome when I spent the last two weeks planning what to wear. But when I showed up at school, I realized nobody else was wearing a handmade shirt – a handmade shirt that just so happens to match a handmade skirt. Because, you guys, I can’t help it if I was just ahead of the fashion trends. (I’m still waiting for that trend to come in, by the way.)

Obviously I've always been ahead of the times fashion-wise. OBVIOUSLY.

Obviously I’ve always been ahead of the times fashion-wise. OBVIOUSLY.

Recently, I decided this whole being-self-conscious-about-doing-solo-stuff thing needs to stop.

I need to be cool with doing stuff on my own again.

Because, you know, sometimes you just want to do stuff and there’s nobody around to do that stuff with.

So what are you going to do?

Just not do the stuff?

That’s stupid.

Plus, there are only so many times you can take your mom and dad out on a date before you start feeling a bit lame. Or they stop answering your calls. Whichever one comes first.

So a few weeks ago, I decided I needed to start doing more stuff on my own.

I started things off easy with a few tours of places around town. Including, the funky Darwin Martin house, a Frank Lloyd Wright designed house in Buffalo.
Darwin D. Martin House

Darwin D. Martin House

And Buffalo’s majestic City Hall.

City Hall

City Hall

In case you’ve never been on a tour by yourself, I totally recommend you do one.

Tours are the perfect solo activity.

You don’t have to introduce yourself to anyone or make small talk. Heck, you don’t even have to talk at all. But, if you do, say, ask the tour guide eleventy-billion nerdy questions, that’s cool, too.

Plus, you can pretend like you’re not from around here, and you’re just in town on some top-secret, solo-stuff-business, and that’s why you’re alone. Not because you don’t have any friends and your mom and dad aren’t returning any of your calls or anything.

I’ve also been to the movies on my own a few times. Which, honestly, is my favorite way to go to the movies EVER.

Seriously, you guys, if you’ve never been to a movie alone, you need to go right now.

Solo cinema-going is the best!

You can watch any movie you want. You never have to share your armrest. And you can eat popcorn for dinner and cry through all the cheesy parts of the movie and nobody has to know.

Dinner is SERVED!

Dinner is SERVED!

That is, of course, until you blather all about it on your blog.

This week, I decided to step things up a notch.

I decided to go to a local networking event I’d heard about on Twitter. This was exactly the type of thing I would usually never want to do on my own – you know, the kind of thing that involves mingling and talking to people I don’t know. All without a tour guide there to answer all my nerdy questions or a bucket of popcorn to cry into.

The only way I managed to convince myself to go was because I knew there was going to be free pizza and chicken wings there.

Oh, the things I do for wings.

Oh, the things I do for wings.

And because I told myself that I could write a blog post about it afterwards.

Mind you, when I originally imagined this blog post, the title was going to be something like “Weeklyish Challengey Thingie: Meet New People That Are Totally Not My Parents” or “How to Not Be Totally Socially Awkward AT ALL.”

So, umm, yeah, spoiler alert: those things didn’t happen.

When I showed up at the event, I was a bit surprised to see that everyone was already sitting at tables eating their free pizza and wings.

This was even worse than I thought it was going to be.

I hadn’t known it was going to be that kind of event. You know, the kind where you actually have to sit down and talk to people.

Since it was at a bar, I thought it was going to be more like a stand-up-and-mingle event. The kind where you can easily disguise the fact that you’re alone by standing next to a big bunch of people while nodding your head with the conversation and laughing at all their jokes and totally acting like you’re their new best friend. Even though they’re shooting you weird looks and inching away from you because you just laugh-snorted blue cheese through your nose.

But doing sit-down events on your own is totally the worst, amirite?

Gah! The dreaded sit-down event. Luckily, this one came with assigned seats & free booze.

Gah! The dreaded sit-down event! Thank god for booze!

We should just go ahead and ban all sit-down events already. Especially any sit-down event that requires you to find your own seat. That’s just asking for bad high school cafeteria flashbacks.

I quickly grabbed some pizza and wings and an informational handout, made my way to an empty table in the back of the room and sat down.

And, then, I did the only thing I could think to do – I stared at the informational handout like it was the most exciting informational handout I’d ever seen in my life. Like, “Wow, guys, have you seen all this information on this handout? It’s crazy! I can’t even tear my eyes off all this information! I could never feel lonely and awkward with all this information to keep me company! Yay, information!”

Of course, I know I should have just asked someone if I could sit down at their table.

But, in my defense, most of the tables were already pretty full.

And, you guys, there are only so many challengey things I can force myself to do in one week. This week I was just working on getting myself to a social event. Next week, I might actually work on being social at that social event.

Luckily, the event organizers started talking to the group soon after I sat down.

This made me feel a lot less awkward.

That is until one of the organizers started explaining that we shouldn’t feel awkward if we didn’t know anybody there. And, of course, she said all of that while looking directly at me. Which caused everyone else to look at me.

Let’s just say this was not an effective technique to make me feel less awkward.

After the organizers finished up their talk and I had managed to scarf down some of my pizza and wings, I did the only thing I could think to do – I ran away.

I pretended to head to the bathroom, but, instead, I made a beeline for the front door, hopped in my car and found myself driving to the nearest ice cream place I could find. Because sometimes ice cream is the only thing that will dull the pain.

Ah, ice cream! Awkwardness? What awkwardness?

Ah, ice cream! Awkwardness? What awkwardness?

I felt a little bit bad about giving up so early on being social.

But not that bad.

I mean, isn’t one of the joys of doing stuff on your own, the fact that you can totally fail at that stuff and run away from an entire roomful of strangers without talking to anyone and go drown your awkwardness in a bucket of peanut butter cup ice cream and nobody has to know?

That is, of course, until you blather all about it on your blog.

Do you like to do stuff on your own? What’s your favorite thing to do solo? What’s your least favorite?

I've blathered on long enough! Now it's your turn!

  1. On April 14, 2013 at 7:50 pm Hannah @ Getting Stamped said:

    I don’t really do things by myself, except grocery shopping & go the gym if that counts..i will go through the drive-thru and eat in the parking lot. I know that I too have to get better at this…I hate going to the mall alone everything…Congrats to you for trying to go solo!!
    Hannah @ Getting Stamped recently posted..So much to look forward to…

  2. On April 14, 2013 at 7:54 pm Deedee said:

    I LOVE doing stuff on my own! I go to movies by myself all the time, I shop by myself, and I even go to concerts alone. True, sometimes these things are better experienced with someone else, but sometimes I just like to be on my own time at my own pace, and even the bestest of buddies can feel like a weight.

    That said, I hope you count me in that small group of people you know you can always call for company on random excursions! 🙂

  3. On April 14, 2013 at 8:19 pm Priya said:

    I’m the same way. There are many times where I have to make myself go to things alone, especially if I want go and my I’ll ask people if they want to go but they either don’t want to go or say they’ll go and then cancel at the last minute.

    I went to my second Mariah concert alone because the first one I was stood up. True story.

    I make myself go to meetup events on occasion to meet new people. These can kind go either way depending on the people and the event. But usually people are there for the same reason, to meet people. So it’s less awkward.

    I’m self-conscious about doing things alone all the time. I’m terrified to go to Portland this summer. Terrified.

    We live in a society where it’s looked down upon to go to a restaurant and eat alone. We are afraid to attend a social gathering by ourselves or go to a show alone. Many of us are afraid to go anywhere unaccompanied and ultimately, to be alone. Although it’s more comfortable to go somewhere with friends or a date, it can be just as enjoyable if we go by ourselves. Maybe even more. If we wait for someone or not go somewhere because we don’t have someone to go with, we might miss out on a wonderful opportunity.
    Priya recently posted..What To Do When You’re In-Between

    • On April 14, 2013 at 8:24 pm Sally said:

      Totally agree. I definitely didn’t let being alone stop me from traveling, so I don’t know why I get so hung up about doing stuff on my own in the States. Granted the things I don’t like doing here on my own are pretty much the same things I wasn’t crazy about having to do alone while traveling — like going out to dinner on my own or going to evening events. But because I was traveling alone, I didn’t have much choice, so I would just go. I need to get that attitude again!
      And, you’ll do totally awesome at Portland. Trust me!

  4. On April 14, 2013 at 8:36 pm Ross said:

    I do a lot on my own and really enjoy it. Travel, eating out, concerts, movies. But those social events are not so easy. I can relate to your experience (except the ice cream afterwards). I go thinking I will be able to meet like minded people and I always sit in the back by my self and leave as soon as I can.
    Ross recently posted..Bucket Lists

    • On April 14, 2013 at 10:45 pm Sally said:

      It’s funny because I’m an improv performer, so I have absolutely no problem getting up in front of hundreds of people I’ve never met before and performing something totally off the top of my head. Which I know would freak tons of people out — but for me it’s not a problem. The same thing with teaching — I never get nervous standing in front of students for the first time.
      But when I just need to have a normal conversations with random strangers I’ve never met, I get all nervous and awkward and want to run away and eat ice cream.

  5. On April 14, 2013 at 9:17 pm Zandria said:

    Going to networking events where you don’t know anyone is definitely the most nervewracking out of everything you mentioned. I wouldn’t mind going on a tour by myself or even to the movies, but walking up to people I don’t know and initiating a conversation? It’s incredibly difficult.

    I would have done like you did — look like I was immersed in printed material and/or my phone, and then hightailed it out of there as soon as I could.

    I’ve learned from past experience that I really need at least one friendly face in a situation like that. 🙂
    Zandria recently posted..Weekend in Photos: Warm Weather

    • On April 14, 2013 at 10:46 pm Sally said:

      Yes, definitely having at least one other person around that you have at least kind of met before totally helps! And, oh, yes, the fiddle with the phone trick — I’ve done that TONS of times.

  6. On April 14, 2013 at 10:16 pm Steph | A Nerd At Large said:

    Love the post. I do stuff on my own all the time — partly out of necessity and partly my own preference. Last year I was on a solo trip to Dublin and found out that there was a ukulele concert happening on my birthday. I treated myself to a nice dinner and the concert as my birthday celebration. It was great fun, and I didn’t talk to a single person that night (aside from the server at dinner as my mime skills aren’t worth squat). It was one of my better birthdays, actually.

    I had to laugh at your tale of attending the meet up. Whenever I’ve been to something like WordCamp or TBEX, I always have the irrational assumption that everyone else already knows each other (and knows far more about the topic of the event than little old me) and I’m the awkward interloper. Somehow it rarely turns out that way. You should swing on up to Toronto sometime and join us for Travel Massive.
    Steph | A Nerd At Large recently posted..Foto Friday: Live From the Sambadrome

    • On April 14, 2013 at 10:48 pm Sally said:

      I ALWAYS feel the same way! I’m always like, “Why does everyone know each other already? When did they meet? How are they BFFs and I don’t know anyone??? AND WHAT ARE THEY EVEN TALKING ABOUT??? GAH!”
      Which means I’m pretty much doomed as I’m going to TBEX for the first time this year.
      Please tell me you’re going! I want someone else around who’s going to be freaking out about how everybody else already knows each other!

      • On April 14, 2013 at 11:09 pm Steph | A Nerd At Large said:

        I will totally be there! Very glad to hear there will be another nerd in attendance. I will happily pretend to be an extrovert for awhile and introduce you to people. Then again, I’ll have just finished my stint at the BlogHouse living with strangers 24/7 for three days and having my grey matter remodelled with blogtastic knowledge, so I might be a cranky nerd by then. If that’s the case then we can sneak off to a quiet corner and play Trivial Pursuit 😛
        Steph | A Nerd At Large recently posted..Foto Friday: Live From the Sambadrome

        • On April 16, 2013 at 7:25 am Sally said:

          Now I worry that I played up my Trivial Pursuit prowess a bit too much. I may have to go into training or something.

          • On April 17, 2013 at 11:07 pm Steph | A Nerd At Large said:

            Ack! Me too! Truce? (some archnemesis I turned out to be, eh?) I’m also having angst over the fact that in my bio, which has spread across time and space thanks to regular gigs on a few different websites, states that I play the ukulele, when in reality I haven’t had a chance to play since the summer and I think I forget how! These are the kinds of preparations that are not in the TBEX handbook.
            Steph | A Nerd At Large recently posted..Timey Wimey Stuff

  7. On April 15, 2013 at 1:09 am Jenni said:

    I love doing things with friends / family. But not doing something I enjoy simply because no one can/will go with, is not me. I have gone to concerts, movies, restaurants and even hung out in Aruba for a few days on my own.

    When I first started working out of college, I took all kinds of road trips up and down the California coast. I wanted to go and if no one had the same days off or wanted to go, I rolled solo.

    My biggest solo adventure was going to Thailand for a month. I met other people through my volunteer program once I got there, but when I left home in Colorado, I was on my own.

    Stopping for ice cream is crucial. At any time. Wherever you are. Especially when doing things on your own. Who can’t help but smile at a grown woman enjoying her ice cream cone with unbridled enthusiasm.
    Jenni recently posted..I Like It Here

  8. On April 15, 2013 at 9:09 am Katherina said:

    I used to HATE doing stuff on my own – as you said, it really made me feel self-concious.

    Now, though? I know I do it because of choice not because I have to! And you’re right – going to the movies on your own is pretty awesome! I also like to go for lunch by myself (with a book, even better!), art galleries, street walks… I guess the only thing I haven’t done on my own yet is having drinks at a bar (that is NOT a hotel resort pool bar).
    Katherina recently posted..5 Reasons Why Moving Abroad Will Boost Your Career

    • On April 16, 2013 at 7:23 am Sally said:

      Yes, I haven’t done the drinks at a bar thing either. I think that would take some major guts. And a few drinks beforehand! Maybe one of these days I’ll do it!

  9. On April 15, 2013 at 10:16 am Laurel said:

    Your post made me laugh and I sincerely hope that skinny jeans are a passing trend. Almost no one looks good in them. I’m good at doing stuff on my own when traveling, but not when it comes to exploring closer to home. Then for some reason, I think I need someone to go with – except when it comes to finding new cafes – that I love to do either on my own or with someone else.
    Laurel recently posted..Neuschwanstein: The Most Overrated Castle in Germany

    • On April 16, 2013 at 7:22 am Sally said:

      Yeah, this seems to be a common thing, then. I guess I’m not the only one who feels totally weird about doing solo stuff when I’m on my home turf. We should start a support group or something!

  10. On April 15, 2013 at 10:26 am Carmel said:

    I used to do more on my own and then my husband kept wanting to go do stuff with me. Sheesh. I always enjoyed walking to a local bakery, getting a coffee and muffin, then sitting down to read one of our weekly entertainment papers (and let’s face, it was basically an excuse to people watch without looking too creepy). I haven’t done that in awhile and have had the urge to take a morning to do that.
    Carmel recently posted..Easter Rising

    • On April 16, 2013 at 7:21 am Sally said:

      Sheez! Husbands! Always wanting to do stuff.
      Hmm… I may have to get one of those myself.
      Although he’ll never get to go to the movies with me because I don’t want to be forced to share my popcorn. Not now! Not ever!

  11. On April 15, 2013 at 10:50 am Pauline said:

    I do a lot of things on my own – going to the mall, eating out & going to the movies (sometimes), grocery shopping, and drinking my morning coffee in a cafe. However, going to a social networking event freaks me out. I’m SO awkward and I’m terrible at small-talks. It’s exhausting to meet new people and to continually try to keep the conversation going. So, I’ve also done what you did – running away from the event. TBEX is going to be a HUGE challenge in June!
    Pauline recently posted..Beautiful Churches: Paris Edition

  12. On April 15, 2013 at 11:54 am travelgeek said:

    Your posts are hilarious !! I am a big fan.

    I enjoy doing many things alone like shopping, have dinner, travel, people watching, sleeping. I hate going to work alone, i wish i could pack my best friend in my bag and have her sit beside me all work day long.
    travelgeek recently posted..Milogate

    • On April 16, 2013 at 7:18 am Sally said:

      Omigod, it would be so much fun to have a bring a friend to work day. I would totally make my friend do all my grading. And teach all my classes. And I’d sit in the back of the classroom, texting everyone like my students do.

  13. On April 15, 2013 at 1:28 pm Warrior of the Pen said:

    Hi Sally,
    Great post, I loved reading it!
    I actually enjoy doing quite a few things on my own, my absolute favourite is sitting in a café reading a book or newspaper, while sipping on a coffee or on a glass of red wine.
    I also enjoy going to museums on my own – I did a whole museum-marathon trip while staying with a friend in Washington D.C. (she had to work during the day so I needed to do something to keep myself occupied), I think I visited about 8 museums in 3 days. I absolutely loved it.
    I also love going to the cinema on my own – it is my personal me-date time: I watched the Hobbit by self, as sole companions sweets, Ben&Jerry’s icecream and popcorn.
    I also like travelling on buses and trains on my own.
    Muscials and theatre plays are also great on my own (I am not afraid though to talk to my neighbours – complete and utter strangers . in the interval.
    What I do not like doing on my own is gigs/concerts (I hate having to waiting in line all by myself).
    Going to restaurants by myself is ok if I have to and have a book or my notebook with me so I can jot down ideas for my own blog, but I prefer eating out with friends so I have someone to talk to.
    I also remember going to my first meetup event, after having returned to my home country, and being completely and utterly petrified. I very nearly chickend out of it, but I had to force myself to go as I knew that building up a social life was crucial for my social survival so to say.

    • On April 16, 2013 at 7:17 am Sally said:

      I agree with you on the gigs/concerts thing — I’ve never been to anything like that alone. I’ve been to big philharmonic or classical concerts on my own, but never anything rock and roll with a big crowd of people. But, then again, I’ve never really been a rock and roll concert kind of girl. Quiet and classical is much more my style.

  14. On April 15, 2013 at 2:43 pm Andi of My Beautiful Adventures said:

    OMG I loooove going to the movies by myself!!!!!! I hate sharing my popcorn. 🙂
    Andi of My Beautiful Adventures recently posted..Andi’s Pick: Elbow Beach, Bermuda

  15. On April 16, 2013 at 6:30 am Jessica Hill said:

    I can totally relate! Somehow it’s much easier to do things solo when you’re already out of your comfort zone. It seems like when we’re traveling, it’s just one more thing to “prove” to ourselves that we’re capable of doing, but back home, we’re afraid of being seen as the loner!

    I have no problem eating alone at a restaurant in Asia, but back in The States if I have to eat alone, it’s definitely going to be Subway or something quick!

    And actually being social at a social event? Dang, that takes guts. Best of luck next week!

    • On April 16, 2013 at 7:14 am Sally said:

      I never really liked eating dinner alone while traveling (no problem with breakfast, lunch or the 5 million other meals a day), but I did it. Because, you know, a girl’s gotta eat! But, yeah, I haven’t been out to dinner once by myself since returning to the States — other than something fast or some cafe type place. I think that may be my next challenge — take myself out on a dinner date!

  16. On April 16, 2013 at 7:48 am Tom @ Waegook Tom said:

    Doing stuff on my own is something I’m still trying to get used to! I’m OK alone in restaurants, but going to a bar, always a bit self-conscious! As for the movies, I’ve yet to go to one alone! I do like the concept of not having to share popcorn or armrests…
    Tom @ Waegook Tom recently posted..What To Do In Providence: Rhode Island Ramblings

  17. On April 16, 2013 at 8:35 am Joshua @ Engineer on the Road said:

    I’ve been doing things on my own for the last 6 months. I’m used to it now, but the worst thing is eating alone. I’m from a family where we always sat around a dinner table and it was the most social part of my day, so to have that taken away is really isolating at times. The poor waitresses must think I’m a chatterbox I crave conversation that much I bombard them with verbal diarrhea. Still the peace and quiet is fine and I don’t have a big issue talking to strangers – the hard part is just that first contact and not knowing what to say initially.
    Joshua @ Engineer on the Road recently posted..Gibraltar on a Budget

    • On April 17, 2013 at 8:08 am Sally said:

      Totally! The first contact is totally the hardest. And I usually find myself stuttering out something really awkward like, “Wow, is that a salad? It looks… salady.”

  18. On April 17, 2013 at 3:01 am Maria said:

    Your blog made me note how little I do alone! I used to have a dream as a kid that for my birthday everyone would leave the house and just leave me in the quiet (never happened).
    I’m in Bangkok now, for the last month, and can only name a BTS trip and a walk, taken alone, but both were to meet a friend. Think I need to take a page from your book and be weird in a foreign country and strike out on my own!
    Regardless, I can completely relate to mingling events – terrifying. I have been trying to pump myself up for a Volunteer Meetup this Saturday, I’m sure the lack of Thai I speak with make it all the better. While not ice cream, it’s at a cake shop though so at least there will be cake.

    • On April 17, 2013 at 8:06 am Sally said:

      I didn’t realize how much I was avoiding the whole alone thing until I wanted to go somewhere about a month ago and I was like, “Oh, but I don’t know anyone who will go.” WHAT? Who is that person?
      Good luck at your meetup! I’m sure you’ll do awesome. Just stand by a bunch of people and nod your head a lot and laugh at all the jokes… even if they’re in Thai!

  19. On April 28, 2013 at 12:01 am cosmoHallitan said:

    I so feel your pain with that whole sit-down dinner thing. I’m okay one-one-one but tend to freeze up when it comes to groups, especially when I don’t know any of them. But it’s gotten easier over the years as I put less stock into what others think of me. In fact, I went solo to a lunch event in Shanghai recently where the only person I knew was moderating. I forced myself to sit next to a group at a table (instead of taking an empty seat at the back) and ended up having a great time making small talk with the other ladies!

    • On May 18, 2013 at 12:45 pm Sally said:

      Good for you! I, honestly, found it a little easier doing the solo socializing thing when I lived overseas. I still felt self conscious especially if everyone knew each other. But, at least, you always had something to talk about: “Hey, where are you from? How long have you lived here? Do you speak Chinese/Japanese/Thai?” Those lines don’t work quite so well in Buffalo, unfortunately!

  20. On June 14, 2013 at 2:42 pm Ceri said:

    I will do anything and everything alone when I’m in another country but here in my homeland? … Maybe … If it’s not social. Going to a social event alone? No way. I’m way too awkward for that. You’re brave for going there in the first place, girl. Good for you.
    Ceri recently posted..NY Bucket List: #1 – Visit Central Park


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