Alone vs. Lonely

by Demetria Irwin

Alone vs. LonelyI live alone and work mostly from home, so I am quite comfortable in my own company.  This comfort extends beyond the walls of home and it is not unusual for me to catch a movie, have brunch, go to a bar or even take a vacation by myself.  For the most part, it’s a pretty liberating experience to do things alone. I have more conversations with strangers (which I love) and I’m able to focus more on whatever I’d like to focus on as opposed to keeping up with a conversation.  There are times when it’s good to kiki with girlfriends over bottomless mimosas and there are times when I prefer to sip and nibble as I plot my next move in my faithful Moleskine.

One interesting thing that usually only happens at restaurants or on vacation is that I’ll get sympathetic looks from women. To a lot of people, being alone (especially for a woman) equals being lonely. Surely a lady would not choose to eat a meal alone or lay on a Caribbean beach by herself. The horror! I’ve even had couples approach me and offer to let me sit with them at their table.  I always appreciate the sympathy, even though I’m not in need of it at those times.

Alone does not equal lonely. Also, you can be in someone’s presence and feel quite lonely. (Listen to Jill Scott’s “Whenever You’re Around” for a moving explanation of how that situation occurs.) But with all that said, loneliness is a real thing that all of us feel at some time or another for various reasons.

As a lover of my own company and a believer in truly living in the moment, loneliness does not visit often, but when it does, it stings.  I think I am fortunate in the sense that these occasional waves of loneliness are the exception and not the rule. I know people, particularly New York transplants, who feel overwhelmed and unmoored most of the time. But I know I have a great support system of family (by blood and by choice) and as far as a romantic partner…well, I’ll let Warsan Shire speak on that for me: “My alone feels so good. I’ll only have you if you’re sweeter than my solitude.” Ashé.

Follow Demetria Irwin on Twitter at @Love_Is_Dope and connect with her on Facebook.

  • Nakia

    Love this…well done. I can relate completely, as a quasi-intorvert who loves to live in my head and enjoys the company of a few very close and quality folks. Enjoying your own company and being able to just “sit” with yourself is something that eludes many, but is actually something that I find I can’t do without.

  • MsNikki55

    This is a great piece, because there is definitely a difference and as I am getting older I see quality companionship means so much more! Since college I have enjoyed an occasional “Loner’s Night Out” of dinner and a movie, now I do it more frequently. I have also had someone ask me to join them because they thought I’ve been stood up! I’ve always felt if you can not enjoy the pleasure of your own company and your own thoughts, why should someone else? I have yet to vacation by myself, but I have been thinking about it as a bucket list item for 2014 as long as I can find a safe place to go where being in pairs is not always recommended.

  • omfg


  • yolanda

    I’m the same. I love company, enjoy my friends and family and occasionally a boyfriend but I live alone and love doing all sort of things alone : concerts, movies, restaurant, traveling. I’m also constantly moving (across continents and cities) and would probably be very depressed if I were different. I feel so peaceful and joyful and free when I’m alone, doing something that I love. Like you, I feel lonely sometimes, but it’s rare. I never understood why some people feel uncomfortable or embarrassed or bored when they are alone. I know some people who would never go to the restaurant alone. I don’t judge, but I find this weird. My only imitation: I can’t sleep without listening to a human voice so if I am alone (this is the case 90% of the time) the radio is playing all night…

  • shay

    I wouldn’t mind going on a really nice vacation by myself

  • A

    I just had a convo with my grandma about this: I love being by myself. Of course I love to have a boyfriend or to hang with friends/some fam lol, but I love the comfort of my own surroundings with no one up in my face or in my ear with stuff I don’t wanna hear. I have me. #selflove

  • evsundays

    “My alone feels so good. I’ll only have you if you’re sweeter than my solitude.” Ashé

    YES!!I’ve expressed this sentiment to friends and family, but never so eloquently as that last line. Whew that’s good, I may have to post that quote somewhere.

    And I love having conversations with strangers too, it’s one of my favorite things!

  • K

    I enjoyed this.

  • binks

    This! I would also add I wish people stop assuming that just because you are alone or prefer to be alone from time to time that you are antisocial, boring, don’t know how to have fun, etc. Just because I like or don’t mind being a party of 1 doesn’t mean I sit at home all day watching paint dry…lol. In fact, I PERSONALLY noticed more people who are alone do more interesting things/activities than those who have to wait to get together to do it.

  • 2NatuRho

    I absolutely love this article, because I am a loner by nature. I take myself out on dates quite occasionally: brunch, movies, museum hopping, etc….a vacation by myself is definitely on the bucket list!

  • TajMarie

    I think it is about high time that people should be education on introversion in terms of what it is and what it is NOT. Some people cannot fathom being alone. However, I can not fathom not having “any” alone time. Sometimes after constant, perpetual, or cyclic noise, silence is the best sound to my ears. Only then can I concentrate. Otherwise, I’m not as effective in terms of getting things done.

  • Delia

    I know the difference between being alone and being lonely, but I’m still on my solitude journey. I live alone by choice and just have days where I don’t want the overstimulation and would rather have ‘me’ time. But I have yet to go to a movie or restaurant by myself. And never even thought of vacationing by myself…’s 2014 now, I’m thinking hard on taking that leap forward…

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