The first time I went somewhere by myself was a revelation.
I was 18, had recently made the transition from being mostly homeless to living in a small room in a shared kitchen/bathroom style house not far from the university. I always knew about the theatre there, which specialized in arthouse and second run cinematic delights. There was a movie about Chet Baker playing, a documentary called Let’s Get Lost, and I was at the time enraptured by the baby faced bad boy of jazz with the slick trumpet skills and a voice like silk.
I tried so hard to get in touch with friends, to see who would want to go with me. No one shared my interest in the subject matter, had plans, or was just unavailable.
I considered going alone, fretted about the obviously pitying looks I was sure to receive, postponing the decision later and later, until it was sure to be made for me, a habit that is far too common with me still.
At the last possible minute, I raced out the door and just made the bus. It took me not far up the hill, but I was never so attentive to each stop as I was that night, having nothing else to distract me but my own company.
The girl at the box office didn’t even blink when I told her, “one”, and I strode inside, head held high, determined to not be judged for my lack of companion.
No one looked at me.
Literally no one.
There were at least a half dozen others there as a solo date, I was in no way special.
Except for what happened to me as a result of my decision.
As I watched the movie, which both encouraged and dispelled my hero worship in equal measures, a well done portrait of a jazz great who is much more just a man than a giant, something happened there in the dark of the theatre.
I settled in, not just to watch the movie, but to a sense of self that I’d heretofore not been aware of. It was powerful to decide to do something and just do it, without worrying about anyone else being there. I can still remember the elation as I walked home, down the hill, realizing what freedom there is in setting my own schedule. I can go when I want, and leave when I want. I could have left in the middle of the movie and no one would have said anything.
One less thing to be afraid of is no small thing.