How to Spend Time Alone
In a city that can provoke loneliness—but also reward solitude.
Extracted from the New York Magazine, published in July, 2015
By Allison P. Davis, Jason Feifer, Monica Kim, Adam Platt, Lauren Schwartzberg, Raven Snook & Mary Jane Weedman
In this crowded city of 8.4 million—in fact, the most crowded New York has ever been—one of the great and rare pleasures is finding solitude, whether on the subway or at the movies or in a booth facing the wall at a Chinatown noodle shop. But being alone when surrounded by so many others holds a different appeal from being alone in a cabin in the woods. It’s less about being a hermit and more about being a chameleon. It also breeds a different sort of anxiety. Out in the country, you might hear noises in the dark. Here in the city, you might feel like a klieg light is following your every move. Simply requesting a table for one can induce a cold sweat; people might seem like they’re staring; you’re left with just your thoughts (and a paid-to-be-nice-to-you bartender) as the rest of the city buzzes around. Being alone here is a state of mind, a perpetual choice, and an occasional imposition, a burden, and a gift—and sometimes the very best way to meet a fellow stranger. “Every form of human expressiveness is on display,” Vivian Gornick writes of walking the streets by herself, “and I am free to look it right in the face, or avert my eyes if I wish.”