A gentlewoman’s guide to going out alone

April 27, 2024

Design by Lou Jacquin

In the spirit of transparency, I’m going to be vulnerable with you all.

For the first few weekends of my freshman fall, I barely left my room. Sure, there was the occasional rooftop party and my inaugural visit to Dupont Circle, but I still felt an inexplicable ache whenever I was alone. On these solitary weekends, I spiraled, imagining myself to be the epitome of loneliness. I occupied myself by calling my entire family; even my grandma was subjected to hearing about my pitiful lack of exploits. At one point, my dad remarked, “You seem sadder on weekends.”

Whatever, so my high school dreams of becoming a fully actualized “cool girl” were nowhere near being fulfilled. My weekends did not mirror the college stereotype of barhopping and staying out until 3 a.m. Rather than lament over what could have been, with mere weeks remaining in my freshman year, this is instead a guide for my much more naive freshman fall self, who dreaded even the slightest leap out of her comfort zone.

During these depressing days of yore, I constantly bemoaned having friends who “didn’t like to go out,” placing the blame anywhere but on myself. My spunky aunt from California told me to go to parties by myself. What? Was she crazy? This advice went against everything I had ever heard.

Coming from a small town, I was constantly warned not to go into the city by myself. Thanks to the infamous “Georgetown Bubble,” this wasn’t too much of an issue. The real obstacle is that everyone is busy with conflicting schedules. It’s not easy coordinating an Uber for a quick trip out, and when you manage to achieve that, it’s no fun wrangling your friends to pay you back.

(I should add my disclaimer that women need to be especially careful, and yes, we probably shouldn’t go out alone at night. I could get into my many thoughts on how much more difficult it is for women to exist in the world compared to men, but I’ll save that for another day. For now, though, let’s pretend the principle of ceteris paribus holds here).

On the lazy days when I had managed to escape the wrath of Lauinger Library, I realized I could either rot in my bed or get a taste of the outside world. Even if it meant I had to do it alone.

On one such gloomy September morning, I received an email offering free tickets to an indie movie screening. I was elated: this was precisely the kind of sidequest I wanted to embark on. The problem was that no one in my immediate circle had any interest in seeing the movie. That evening, I went against the grain; I skulked through the darkness to the local AMC. When I arrived, I pinpointed a girl who seemed to be in the same position as me: standing alone, shifting rather awkwardly. Mustering up my courage, I struck up a conversation with her and found that she, too, was a Georgetown freshman whose friends didn’t share her enthusiasm for arthouse films. I now refer to this very girl as my movie friend, and we have been going to movies together ever since. This exercise in solo spontaneity engendered a sense of community, resulting in a new friend made by virtue of being alone.

A few weeks later, I came across a newspaper flier advertising the World Culture Festival taking place at the National Mall later that afternoon. With such short notice, I once again ventured out alone. I soon enough found myself seated eagerly on the GUTS bus, then clutching a handrail on the Metro. Upon exiting the Metro, I was immediately swept up by a chattering crowd of tourists flocking to the same destination as me, my feet hardly touching the ground. I wandered through hordes of marching bands and was entranced by an array of vibrant hues. Entering the city alone thrust me out of the mundane. I walked along the paths of people who weren’t part of the Georgetown student hive mind. Here, surrounded by individuals from all corners of the earth, I felt that I wasn’t truly alone, and even if I was, there was still room for me to belong as my authentic self. 

I recall how uneasy I once felt about activities as painless as attending club meetings by myself. I had a sense that it would, at best, lead to awkward exchanges of Georgetown intros, and at worst, lead to social ostracism of the highest order. But despite the hyperconceptualization that occurs in our heads, taking this simple risk alone often pays off. I first joined the Voice when I tentatively approached the office in Leavey and observed what may have been the tensest editorial board meeting in organization history. But now, I consider the Voice to be home to some of my dearest friends and one of my favorite places on campus.

College, and young adulthood in general, is about going outside of your comfort zone. I have had so many adventures freshman year—from neighborhood library trips to Kennedy Center concerts—that would have never been possible if I had avoided flying solo. Through these outings alone, I have grown to be confident in my ability to be my own person and have built lasting friendships. I find that, as children, we have a tendency to lament total dependence, only to shirk our newfound autonomy as adults. We need to be secure enough in ourselves to exist outside of our relationships with others. The freedom of being alone can teach you about what makes you happy and almost paradoxically lead you to a more expansive community of people who bring you joy. For the sake of both your individuality and your social life, go forth alone. There’s a lot outside of the bubble worth venturing out for. 

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