The Fine Art of Eating Alone: A Guest Essay from Sarajane Case

I found Sarajane Case on Instagram: Who is this vivacious redhead posting about self-care and creativity, sharing poignant self-portraits and photos of her green smoothie? Turns out, Sarajane is photographer, blogger and coach working from Asheville, North Carolina. She and I both value morning writing time, beautiful coffee drinks, self-care as part of a business plan and time outdoors.

Check out her website to see her essays, photographs and business ventures, because they are beautiful, wise and inspiring. I hope you enjoy this essay by Sarajane, on the challenge and delight of eating alone:

I can remember the first time I had to eat alone at a restaurant. I'd moved to a new city where I didn't know anyone; my lack of interest in fast food and the lack of a kitchen in my summer apartment had me sitting at many a restaurant two-seater with nothing but a book for company. My face burning with the realization that people were probably pitying me, I'd have the intense urge to awkwardly announce that I did indeed have friends and that someone somewhere probably loved me.

At the time I believed it to be torture. I ate every meal a little red faced. I realize that sounds dramatic, but, it's a pretty accurate description.

Today, eating alone is truly one of my greatest joys and what I believe to be a secret weapon in both my happiness and my creative inspiration. Not just eating out alone either, but, going to movies, getting coffee, and spending time at the park. Here are the reasons I think you should do the same:

1. Learn to enjoy time with yourself.

I think there’s nothing more attractive than a person who can entertain themselves. If you have a great time and are happy in your own skin without the help of anyone else, then, there’s probably no one I want to be around more. There’s something about independent people that I believe to be contagious! Also, there’s a Harvey Danger song that says, “if you’re bored, then you’re boring.” I’ll leave it at that.

2. You don’t have to consult anyone.

I have this issue with guilt. I’m working on it, but, in the meantime:  I have to know everyone is happy and having a good time. If we go to the movie that I want to see then I feel guilty that someone else may not want to be watching it. However, going by myself gives me the chance to watch all the movies that others may not want to see or go to restaurants without discussing it. I can make every decision as I feel it. If I want to go somewhere, there’s no one to discuss it with—I can just go!

3. You have time with your thoughts.

There have been phases of my life where I spent so much of my time with other people that I often forgot to ask myself what I thought about things. I’d listen to others' opinions and be easily persuaded. At the end of the day I want to make sure I’m aware of my thoughts and concerns. What is it that I’m passionate about? What do I really think about our governor? What am I spending the most of my time doing and is it building the life I want to have? Spending even just a few hours alone with your thoughts can spark new creativity and I often surprise myself with what I come up with.

4. Meet new people.

It can be difficult to make new friends when you’re with other people. But, it can be simple to connect to people when you’re out alone. Just smiling at a stranger could result in a conversation deeper than you would have with some of your closest friends. True story: last week I was alone at my favorite coffee shop and made 3 new friends in 30 minutes, exchanged phone numbers with all of them and have plans to hang out! I’ve even met clients by having meals by myself.

For a while now I've practiced the habit of sharing a day with myself. I take myself to the movies, out for coffee, and to a great meal. It usually ends in bourbon and my journal and I've never regretted a single one.

I'd like to challenge you to enjoy eating alone. If you give it a go, here are a few pieces of advice:

Put the phone down. It’s very tempting to spend the entire time ‘checking your e-mail’ or looking busy. Put your phone away for as much of your time as possible. Look people in the eye, admire the color of the walls, feel the air on your skin, and absorb what it feels like to be right where you are doing exactly what you are doing.

Bring a book. It’s comforting to have somewhere to put your eyes. If taking in your surroundings doesn't take up much of your time and you find yourself lonely or tempted to check your phone than have something pleasant to read along with you.

But don’t read your book the entire time! Yes, it’s comforting to have somewhere to put your eyes, but, push yourself to have no social safety net. It may thrill you.

Smile! It shows that you're secure and opens you up to conversations with new people. (If that's what you're into.)

Honestly, I share this with you out of the joy of my own experience. I've had some of my favorite nights alone and I've made some of my most life-altering decisions over an amazing latte that I savored every last sip of, by myself.

Do you have any awkward dining alone stories? Any success stories? I'd love to hear them!

Sarajane Case is a blogger, photographer and life consultant based out of Asheville, NC. She's one half of Persona Creative, creative media marketing agency focused on connecting people in a meaningful and authentic way.