A few weekends ago, the weather was absolutely perfect for hiking at Moraine State Park and McConnells Mill State Park. Blue skies, sunshine, 80’s – one of those mid-summer days that you just can’t help but get outside and appreciate nature.
I’d been meaning to drive up with Jim for awhile, but with the wedding and everything else going on, the summer started slipping away from me. Luckily, my friend asked me to go up with her on a weekend when I was a little more flexible.
We drove up early in the morning so we could start the day when it was a little cooler out. It always surprises me how close Moraine State Park is and how easy it is to drive there. Her GPS started taking us some crazy way, north of the lake, so after turning around and following the guidance of a different GPS, we made it to the South Shore.
I think the other few times I’ve been to Moraine, I went to the North Shore, where they have boating, a “beach,” bike trails and such. We didn’t care where we went, we were just looking for some pretty trails good for hiking.
The hike at Moraine was pretty easy, so we had plenty of time to talk.
That’s what great about a hike. No cell phone reception, no agenda, nowhere to be. Your worries and stresses just slip away for a little while and you get to just be.
We talked about a lot of stuff those first 5 miles. Work, our houses and mortgage payments, whether or not we should get pets, how we’re doing on our training for our 10-miler (I have a buddy running it with me!), husbands and boyfriends…
And part of our conversation really resonated with me. We were talking about being alone, and for her, what it’s like to live alone. My friend is super outgoing, very social, and probably the most fun person to be around. But she admitted that although she is happy being independent, owning her own home and focusing on her career, she does get lonely living by herself.
I realized that I hadn’t really thought much of it before. As a self-proclaimed introvert, I am usually quite happy to be by myself and thrive off energizing solitude. However, it came to my attention that I have never been truly alone. I have never had to face living completely by myself in my own home.
Now that Jim and I are married, we spend our down-time together, just sitting next to each other or watching Netflix on the couch. We don’t have to have plans or always be engaged in the most stimulating conversation, but we’re happy to just be. We’ve been trying to save money and we’re content being homebodies for a little while.
In my contentment with Jim and Netflix, I realized, especially after my conversation with my friend, that I no longer do anything on my own. While I am sitting here, not alone, I am actually becoming less familiar and less okay with actually being alone. I don’t do anything that I’m interested in if it means that Jim won’t want to come. I’ve shied away from going to an event or taking a class or going someplace new unless I have someone who wants to come with me.
Meanwhile, my friend who is alone all the time, bought herself a Groupon package of dance classes that she’ll take by herself, because she used to dance and she still loves it. If I hadn’t gone to Moraine with her, she probably would have gone anyways, by herself. She can go to classes at the gym, even if she doesn’t know anyone else there. She’s confident in her alone-ness, and I admire her for that.
I realized as we walked through the woods together, swiping at spiderwebs and navigating moss-covered rocks, that there will never be a better time to start getting out there than now. I need to just go out and do what I want to do. I need to get more comfortable with participating on my own. The longer I wait, the harder it will be to join back in.
I’ve grown so complacent and so at ease with this homebody, saving-money, Netflix-binging identity that it has dwarfed the other facets of my life – pieces of me that used to shine.
Think about all the things you used to do growing up. Everything your parents signed you up for, everything you were dragged to after school, everything you were passionate about and everything you longed to do more of.
My list of things includes the obvious (if you know me), like swimming and playing clarinet and participating in marching band and pit band. But I had also tried tons of things as a kid that I thought looked fun. I tried soccer, softball, tennis and dance. I had one lesson of ice skating and a two week program of gymnastics. I played on a “powder puff” football team one year in high school. I was part of the German club and even took a trip to Germany when I was 16, without my parents. I joined the after-school Writer’s Club for a little while. In college, I was part of the Student Television Network.
I was a little gutsy. I embraced new challenges and got out of my comfort zone. All of those things were once unknowns. I didn’t know how to do them and I didn’t have a buddy to try them out with me. I was just interested. I thought they looked like fun. I thought maybe I could be good at them if I practiced or if I tried.
Somewhere down the line, mostly during and after college, it just became easier to keep doing what I already knew. I felt confident on a pool deck but worried that I’d be totally out of my element in a zumba class. There was much less risk in going for a jog around the neighborhood than in trying to find parking downtown for an event I’d never been to. It was much less expensive to watch a movie at home than to sign up for a dance class. Somewhere down the line, I started to just stick with what I knew, instead of branching out to what interested and excited me.
I want that to stop. I want to start seeking new experiences and getting back out of my comfort zone. That was a fun place to be. I do remember how exhilarating the unknown can be and how satisfying it is when you know you’ve at least tried. And who knows, maybe I’ll discover something new about myself along the way.