“Waiting for one more, are you?” the waiter, who was much too close to my face, inquired.
If I were on a date, I wouldn’t have ordered dessert first. And second. But I guess you get a lot of looks thrown your way when you dine at one of the fanciest restaurants in town by yourself. Well, I shouldn’t say by myself. I had my book. We were getting pretty serious; I was at least 50 pages deep. No, I didn’t confuse the place for a Barnes & Noble. I was there on purpose.
Let me explain.
I’m not sure if it’s the increased presence of social media or perhaps just the yearning to stay on top of everything Donald Trump and Kanye West say, but lately my brain has felt like one of those tilt-a-whirl rides at a carnival, the one that spins you around until you throw up your funnel cake. Does anybody else feel like there is a lot of stuff going on all the time?
I was suffering from information overload.
It’s no surprise that this period of time has been called the “information age.” With an abundance of answers at our fingertips—whether you want to know which president was the first to ride in a car (William McKinley) or who delivered Pizza to space in 2001 (Pizza Hut)—it’s easy to be overwhelmed by the saturation of available data.
But this flood of knowledge can’t solely be blamed on our computers and tablets. We, as humans, also add to this influx. Hence the reason I found myself at a restaurant. Alone. On a break from living organisms.
I’d had enough.
Why is alone time so valuable?
It gives us a chance to make decisions by ourselves. When we’re at a museum analyzing a piece of artwork, our friends are often quick to give their 2 cents. When we’re at a restaurant, unable to make a decision, we are often bombarded with recommendations. When we see an ad pop up on our Facebook feed, we’re often tempted to buy the product. Consciously or not, our thoughts and decisions are being influenced daily.
Certainly there is a time and place for getting influence and help from others. Challenging one another is a form of growth, and forming meaningful connections is a basis of happiness. But too much dependance can be dangerous. For example, the Asch conformity experiment showed just how easy it is to conform to the influence of others, and groupthink, whereby decisions are reached in a group, can often yield negative results.
It’s critical for us to balance time with ourselves as well as with others. And it’s important for us to form a concrete set of values and feel comfortable making decisions by ourselves. I believe this leads to a fulfilling lifestyle.
Taking time to yourself doesn’t mean being lonely, and it can be an empowering. As a twenty-something, I’m still learning. And while I will always lean on and seek the support of others, I know that it’s me who I ultimately have to deal with the most. And I’m fine with that.
So, go ahead, make that reservation for one. You do you.