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Why are we still making excuses for wanting to spend time by ourselves? TAN MIN YAN refuses to be apologetic about it anymore.
Whenever someone asks me what my favourite things to do are, I always have the same reply: “Eating, travelling, and hiding from the world, in that order.” Invariably, they laugh, I’ll follow up with some deadpan comment about how not having to spend time with people is actually top of the list, and we all joke about how nice it is to be away from everyone. Ha ha!
Here’s the thing: I’m never actually joking. Obviously, I don’t hate people (because that’d be very inconvenient for me as a journalist), but alone time trumps every other favourite activity of mine. The feeling of sheer relief at the end of a long workday, when I can finally be free of incessant e-mails and sink into bed with my laptop for mindless Net surfing and movie watching, is pure bliss. I love to shop alone, and have no qualms about grabbing a glass of wine by myself if the need arises. When I’m in this solo zone, I shut down mentally, unwind, and take my time to reply to texts from friends without feeling (too) bad about it. This is sacred time I guard stubbornly.
Judging by the number of articles extolling the wonders of withdrawing from the world that popped up last year, I’m not in the minority. After all, having downtime after extended periods of human interaction is said to have positive mental and even health benefits, especially for introverts who need to retreat to recalibrate.
But even as this becomes more socially acceptable, there’s still an inherent stigma tagged to people who actively seek it out – that they’re recluses. There are probably few words in the English dictionary as innocuous as “alone” that conjure up so many negative connotations. It seems people still aren’t comfortable enough to fully embrace the notion of being by themselves.
Even I subconsciously try to justify my actions. When I beg out of plans, I always have a ready excuse. I tell people that I like my space, but preface it with the reason that my job requires me to talk to others all the time, so I need a break from it when I’m out of the workplace. I sometimes even apologise for needing me time.
But enough of that. Ultimately, I find time to hang by myself because I like and need it and I shouldn’t have to justify that to anyone. I’m not saying you should flake out on your friends at the last minute (don’t be that person), but you shouldn’t be afraid to excuse yourself with the reason that you simply need to be solo to recharge if you don’t feel you have the mental energy to be good company.
So let’s do this together, folks. Let’s make 2016 the year we stop being apologetic about caring for our mental health. Let’s take our cue from Chandler Bing from Friends, who declared emphatically in one episode: “I’m 29 years old, dammit! I want to sit in a comfortable chair, and watch television and go to bed at a reasonable hour.” And that’s all that needs to be said, really.