Being Alone in Public

The other day, I did something that I previously hadn’t done in Melbourne before. I sat down at the Riverland Bar and Café (but it could have been any bar or café) and had a coffee — by myself.

How many of you have done this? Barring being on holidays, of course. Have you ever sat in a restaurant without telling the waiter or waitress you’re waiting for someone? Have you ever enjoyed a glass of wine without waiting for another person to join you? In other words, have you ever gone out of your way to enjoy your own company?

When I asked my friends this question, their response was: “No. Really, you did that?” And they’d look at me strangely.

But it’s not that ground breaking. It’s about wanting to do something and not having to wait for someone else’s permission or support or company. It’s about trusting in your own abilities.

In this case, I trusted in my own ability, and in Melbourne’s ability, to keep me entertained and interested without the aid of a friend or a phone or iPad or some other sort of reading material.

Yes, I felt uncomfortable at the start. Yes, I didn’t know where to look or what to do. In the beginning, my arms felt like intruders disjointed and sticking out of my body because I was so conscious of what I was doing with them and where I was putting them. These are the symptoms of awkwardness and I felt every single one of them that afternoon — for a short while. Because soon the awkwardness began to fade. I felt comfortable being outside and with myself. In fact, I was glad to be in my own company and felt proud for having broken some sort of social convention. Looking around me, everybody else was with someone they knew, but I was free. It was such a liberating feeling.

It’s the same feeling you get when you sit in the cinema by yourself and laugh or cry wholeheartedly at a film you wanted to watch. It’s the same feeling you get when you do something other people don’t usually do and you feel the rush of achievement afterwards. It’s the feeling of overcoming yourself and your hesitations.

It’s a freedom that comes with being comfortable in your own skin, comfortable with your own awkwardness and comfortable with life’s awkwardnesses.

It’s an experience well worth trying.

And who knows? You might just meet some interesting people and hear some amazing stories and encounter one or two unexpected opportunities along the way — like I did, that afternoon.

Shimeng ZhangShimeng 

Type in Shimeng on an iPhone and you get Shipment. Somewhat appropriate, she’s a traveller and often gets lost along the way. When she’s not writing, she’s practising law in Melbourne and Hong Kong, learning to say “cheers” in as many languages as possible and doing some startup thing on the side. She writes words at and 140 characters @shimengjz.