One surefire way to prioritize alone time even when your friends are social animals
Are there days when you simply “can’t even” with some people?
The person may be super annoying or clingy or, you know, a person.
In a society with a cultural bias toward extroverted tendencies, my need to be alone makes me feel extra weird and obligated to take part in social situations even when I would rather pluck my eyelashes out one by one.
Someday, I hope I’ll feel more comfortable saying, “no” to more of that obligatory social stuff. But until then, I’ll channel my sixth-grade self who felt no shame in setting boundaries around her “me” time no matter how juvenile.
Remember that neighbor who’s mom’s sunglasses taught me about cussing? Well, when we weren’t ransacking her mom’s purse, we were hanging out at the park behind our houses. The vacant jungle gym became our go-to meeting spot and we’d hang out there for hours after school.
Over time, it became painfully obvious she could go on doing that forever. And me? Well, I needed breaks.
So there are a couple things you need to know about my neighbor and I to get the full picture:
- My neighbor fully embraced conflict and couldn’t take a hint to save her life.
- I was terrified of conflict and all I knew how to do was drop hints.
One day on the bus ride home, I decided I’ve had enough of this “social” stuff. I was loathsome to imagine one more afternoon of, like, talking and stuff. Blegh.
All I wanted to do was be by myself, eat Cheez-Its, and watch SpongeBob SquarePants.
So when the bus reached our stop, I swiftly departed and made a bee-line for my front door, completely ignoring my neighbor.
She yelled after me, “Meet you in the park!”
I shut and locked the door without responding. Not today, lady, not today.
I told myself she’d probably wait at the park for a while but eventually get bored and go home. I’d make up a story the next day about not feeling well or something. No harm, no foul.
I now had the house to myself and I was going to spend the hour and forty-five minutes before my mom got home exactly how I wanted to. So I plopped on the couch, grabbed the Cheez-Its, and turned on the TV.
Only there was a problem.
My neighbor did go to the park and wait a while. And she did, in fact, get bored. But she did not go home.
Less than ten minutes into the first SpongeBob episode, my doorbell rang. My veins turned to ice. It was her. I could feel it.
I chewed the Cheez-Its slower so they wouldn’t cover up the sound of my friend moving around outside. There was a bay window with the shades halfway drawn less than three feet from where I was on the couch. Did she already see me? Oh please god, don’t let it be so!
Crawling on the ground, I made my way to the windows and slowly shut the blinds. Then I crept to the front door and looked through the peep hole.
Sure enough, it was her. She rang the doorbell again and I instinctively hunched to a crouch, adrenaline pumping.
“Jordin! I know you’re home!” she shouted.
I honestly hoped that if I didn’t say anything, she would start questioning herself like, ‘Maybe Jordin really did have to go somewhere,’ or better yet, ‘Maybe she wasn’t even on the bus. Maybe I’m thinking of yesterday.”
So I crawled back to the sofa, turned the TV down real low and continued to chew quietly so I could, you know, stay alert.
She rang the doorbell a few more times and shouted some stuff I couldn’t hear. I could, however, hear her creeping through the bushes in front of the bay window whose blinds I just shut.
‘Nice try,’ I thought as I shoved more crackers into my mouth.
I felt confident she finally gave up when she retreated from the bushes a few minutes later. Except for I heard the hinge to the gate creek open. She was in my back yard!
Major problem. There were windows facing back there that would surely expose me. I leaped to the windows and closed the blinds just in time.
“I hear you…” she mocked, “Jordin, I know you’re in there.”
Even though it seemed I was found out, I still didn’t give up hope she would go home soon. But boy, did she linger.
She started knocking on the windows and just talking to me about her day through the exterior walls like we were face to face. I’m not kidding you.
Eventually, I just turned up the TV, made myself some popcorn, and enjoyed my show. It was decided, I no longer GAF.
Even when she went back to the front door to incessantly ring the doorbell, I wasn’t deterred. I was going to have some “me” time, and there was nothing the universe, or my crazy neighbor, could do to stop it.
Fast Forward to Now
While there are certainly better ways to handle those sorts of situations than to pretend I’m not home when I clearly am (like, for instance, have an adult conversation about boundaries and my need for alone time), there is something my sixth-grade self teaches me every time I remember this story:
Its okay to need alone time. But even more importantly, it is okay to create space for alone time in my life even when there are so many other things I still need to do. Because I take care of others ten times better when I also take care of myself.
Do you have any moments where you had some “me” time even when it seemed like the odds were working against you?
Let’s hear about it in the comments below!
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Originally published at ourweirdlives.com on March 14, 2017.