There was a point in time where I was dependent on others – I needed people to be with me, to appreciate me (which I still do sometimes), to accompany me to eat, or for a trip to the loo (trust me) – I always needed (not wanted or liked, but needed) to be around people so much so that I hadn’t known how enjoyable being alone could be. Yes, I have been lonely too. That was painful. But this is not about being lonely. This is about being alone. For a funny person like me, I have always taken it for granted that I am at my best when I am surrounded by a bunch of people laughing and talking. I thought that was what I enjoyed the most. Never really gave being alone a shot.
I still remember my words from the past to my friends, “I can never eat alone. I always need company while eating. Because somehow at the back of my mind there is this staunch belief that people who eat alone are miserable losers with no friends, no sense of humor, nobody to love them – basically that’s pathetic. I’d rather not eat if I have to eat alone.” And I have foolishly stuck on to that stupid stupid thought for all these years. How or when or why that thought was formed in my mind is still a mystery. I was even part of a forum (of ‘Lonely Eaters’) in my older company.
But nature and time have their own way of teaching things to us. Nature did it by making me feel hungry way before my teammates were. And time had it that they were unable to accompany me owing to – a) writing down lyrics of songs they want to practice singing, b) reading a forwarded email making fun of IT organizations, c) work (ok, that was just the geek of the team), d) talking over the desk phone to a girlfriend or e) checking FaceBook. Initially, I tried waiting for them to finish their tasks so that we could all hang out as a team and have lunch while talking and laughing and pulling each others’ legs (incidentally, that is also what we do at our desks, but whatever). But hunger got the better of me.
I decided to go alone to the cafeteria and get something to eat. As soon as I entered, I felt as if all eyes were watching me, as if asking to themselves, “What is this utterly gorgeous girl doing all alone in the big bad cafeteria?” or “She’s eating alone? What would I not give to be sharing that table with her?” but most of them were not even looking at me; it was my bloody illusion. I went, bought my food, sat in a table at the corner not wanting to gain any attention (you see, I am kind of a celebrity at my workplace). I ate my food and got up and left the cafeteria as if I had never been there. No big deal. I didn’t feel unloved or like a miserable loser or pathetic. I just felt hungry and I had food. It was that simple.
But what I didn’t mention is the fun in being alone (if you can control your giggles, that is). What happened with me was that as I was eating, I was watching the others in the cafeteria – guys laughing out loud with food in their mouth (I know that’s gross, but it’s funny when the person is not sitting on the same table as you), a gang of guys checking out a gang of girls (dude, won’t you people ever grow out of college?), a guy checking out another guy (hey, I am not against it dude), a girl sitting in a corner table with her phone glued to her ears (Déjà vu, I used to do that back in college), the hunk and the hot girl sitting at the same table talking (probably) about diets and work-out routines (pfff, yeah right!), the over-weight guy gorging on Fried Noodles (way to go, man!). As if these weren’t enough, my mind starting dubbing for people sitting at the other tables (ala Vivek in the movie ‘Badri’) – running wild with imagination.
At last, it took me 24 years to appreciate myself. Hell, I could be fun too. I took an oath that day that I will have some “me” time everyday for at least about half an hour so I can be at peace with myself (which is by making fun of others within my head) and feel better about myself.