It’s early afternoon on a Saturday.
Your friends just bailed on your plans for the night. You’ve had two bad Bumble dates already this week, and can’t bear to stomach a third. It’s a beautiful sunny day in New York that’s too nice to be wasted cooped up inside your apartment all day, so, what do you do? You do what a lot of people would never think to do. You spend a day alone in New York (or as I prefer to say, you spend a day alone with New York).
Spending a day alone in New York might sound crazy to some people. “What the hell am I going to do alone in New York for a whole day?” “Won’t people stare at me and think I’m crazy?” “I’ll feel so lonely and isolated.” These thoughts may all be running through your head right now. Tell those thoughts to shut the F up, because I’ve found that there is a way that all of these fears and insecurities about spending time alone can be shut down (at least for the day).
Be selfish. This day is about YOU.
A few months ago, I decided to wander around New York on a Saturday and before I left my apartment I told myself, “This day is about you. Today, you are taking yourself out on a self-care date.” That completely changed my whole perspective on the day. I was going through a particularly low patch where I was feeling really disconnected from myself and others. So having a day where I put myself first, and knew it, was key for me. Personally, spending time alone allows me the chance to reconnect with myself. In this wild and wonderful city, we often get caught up doing a million different things, with a million different people, in a million different places. When you consciously decide to slow down and spend a few hours on your own, you really get back to the basics of what you need, what you enjoy, what you love, and what you deserve.
Whatever your intention is for this day, set it before you even leave your apartment. This will help you with any decisions, or non-decisions, you make throughout the day, and it will help you to avoid those insecure and shame-inducing thoughts about being alone. Ain’t nobody got time for that kind of negativity in their life.
Lizzo, queen of self-love, says it best, “Cuz I’m my own soulmate, I know how to love me, I know that I’m always gonna hold me down”. This song can serve as your bible and hype music for the day.
Don’t be picky, just pick a place!
Maybe it’s a street fair that you could swing by. Maybe it’s an art exhibit that you’ve been wanting to check out. Maybe it’s a certain neighborhood, park or restaurant that you’ve been dying to go to. Whatever it is, have it be somewhere or something that you don’t need to be in a rush to get to. This gives you plenty of time to meander your way through the streets, and stop at anything that piques your interest. And believe me, this will happen! As soon as you give yourself the freedom to do whatever you want, you will do exactly that. My favorite destination on these kinds of days is Washington Square Park. There is always so much happening in, and around, the park, and to me, it really feels like the heart of the city, which is exactly what I’m looking for when I’m spending a day alone in (with) New York.
Ditch your Metrocard!
Let’s not kid ourselves, no one who wants to go to Central Park and lives in Crown Heights is going to walk there. However, you can get off the subway a few stops early and walk the rest of the way! Why walk? One, you’ll get some steps in, which will help you burn off the indulgence that will likely come throughout the day (more on that later). I’ve walked almost twenty-five thousand steps, on occasion, while wandering the streets of New York. Just make sure you’re wearing comfy shoes. Second, when you’re walking, you’re more likely and more open to stop at people, places, things, events, puppies, and/or spectacles that you might come across. Also, let’s face it, do any of us really want to spend any more time on the subway than absolutely necessary?
If stopping and petting every single dog you see will make you happy, do it!
These kinds of things will be wildly different for each and every person because we all find joy and fulfillment in a variety of ways. As silly as it may seem, before you leave your apartment, or while you’re walking, or waiting in line at your favorite cafe to start this day off right, ask yourself: What will make me happy today? And then…DO THOSE THINGS. If stopping and petting every single dog you see will make you happy, do it. If Instagramming every part of this day will make you happy, do it. You might not even realize some of the things that make you happy until they are happening. Anything that brings a smile to your face, makes you laugh giddily to yourself and makes you feel all warm and tingly inside. These are the kinds of things that will make your day alone be a fantastic day! My happy things include viewing (and sometimes buying) New York inspired local art, stumbling upon live music, wandering around with no direction, people watching, and ice cream.
A major key for a day alone: TREAT YO’SELF!
Any way that you view treating yourself, do it! You deserve it! You’re spending the day alone, which can be hard for some, and you’re killing it! So, reward yourself for this. Again, the ways in which we treat ourselves vary person to person. Treating yourself may be going on a shopping spree, or to a show, or a $22 Instagram worthy cocktail, or a dollar slice. However you choose to treat yourself, do it with no shame, guilt or regrets. Don’t be afraid to splurge on yourself, so long as your bank account will live to see another day. Choose the treats that will make you happy! For me, it’s always ice cream and any food or drink that reminds me of places I’ve traveled. (Anyone who’s looking for delicious and authentic Peruvian ceviche should RUN, not walk, to Mission Ceviche in Gansevoort Market).
This day WILL get you in your feelings (whether Keke loves you or not)
This happened to me on my self-care date when I was sitting outside at an Italian restaurant in the West Village, sipping on my Aperol spritz and feasting on burrata. As I mentioned before, I was going through a slump where I was feeling disconnected from myself and everyone around me. I was feeling really unhappy about being single, and not having any faith that things would get better for me. But, while I was sitting there by myself, I was overcome with this feeling that I knew I would be okay. I knew right then and there that I would find happiness with someone at some point, and now, for the first time in a long time, I trusted that. This affirmation brought tears to my eyes in a way that was both surprising and empowering. This day spent alone had brought me peace in a way that I never expected.
Being alone with your thoughts and feelings can be scary, believe me, I know that. It can also bring about realizations about yourself that you never would have known otherwise. Be open to this! Use this day to connect with yourself and show yourself some love. If at any point it becomes too overwhelming, there’s no shame in going back home and cuddling up with a pint of Ben & Jerry’s and Netflix, but at least you’ll know you tried.
Pics or it didn’t happen
You don’t actually have to take any pictures, but find a way to commemorate this day. That may sound like a lot, but this is a big deal! It may not seem like it, but there are plenty of twenty, thirty, forty, and fifty-somethings who have never spent more than an hour anywhere by themselves, and they certainly didn’t enjoy it. “What, you want me to get a tattoo just to show that I spent a few hours on my own?” If you want, sure! Let’s start smaller first. Document this day in some way, if for no other reason than to prove to yourself that you did it. This may be a journal entry, an Instagram post, a chalk drawing, a note in your phone, whatever you want. However, if you happen to be in Washington Square Park (or are willing to walk there), stop by The Strangers Project . Usually set up around the fountain (weather permitting), you can read stories written by strangers (anonymously) from all over the country, and write your own! Write about your day spent alone, write about an epiphany you had today, write about how much your feet hurt from all of the walking, write about how you’re going to be broke after treating yourself a little too much, draw a picture of the cute puppy you saw three hours ago, draw a map of where you went, write ANYTHING! You’ll be sharing your story with everyone, and no one, all at once.
End your day on a High
Whatever time it is when you decide that your day spent alone is coming to an end, find a way to end it on a high. That might mean getting some delicious scoops from Morgenstern’s Finest Ice Cream (seriously, can you tell I’m obsessed with ice cream?). Or stopping for a cocktail at a rooftop bar. Or picking up a bottle of wine and having a dance party back at your apartment. Or keep the day going a little bit longer, and your high might just find you.
I had just finished writing my story for The Strangers Project and was watching a group of toddlers playing instruments along with a band. I was just about to walk through the arch and out of the park when something made me turn back and circle around the fountain one last time. On the exact opposite side of the park from where I had been standing, I stumbled upon Robert Leslie, a Brooklyn-based musician from the UK, playing his guitar and singing in front of a microphone with a vintage suitcase lined with fairy lights set up next to him advertising his next gig. I ended up staying and listening to him for almost two hours, first drawn in by his enchanting presence and voice and staying in the hopes of more Bob Dylan covers. As I stood watching and listening, I couldn’t contain the smile that kept spreading over my face. Even when I didn’t know a single lyric to a song, the magic of watching someone perform live is thrilling to me and always leaves me in the best mood. When I finally left the park that night, I was on cloud nine. I had spent almost ten hours on my own that day and had never felt better. I felt inspired and reinvigorated by New York, but also by myself. I had done it. I had spent a day alone in, and with, New York and felt fantastic doing it.
What are you waiting for?!
The next time you find yourself with no plans or ditch your plans to spend time by yourself because of SELF-CARE, remember it all starts with that first step. Set your intention for the day, treat yourself, and do whatever feels right. Follow your gut, follow the wind, follow the ice cream truck, follow the crosswalk lights (highly recommend), follow the puppies. As long as it makes you happy, that’s all that matters. See you guys out there. I’ll be the one in the white Converse giggling to herself while falling in love with musicians playing in the park.