Adityamadhav83, CC 3.0
Source: Adityamadhav83, CC 3.0

As a child, I played basketball for hours, mainly by myself. I would go to baseball doubleheaders alone. Now, at age 67, I still maximize my time alone. 

As I am happily married, I do spend time with my wife and participate in the social life she plans for us. We do live apart for much of the week and when I have discretionary time, I almost always spend it alone.

I feel self-conscious about being a loner. I also feel the societal opprobrium. Why would I accept those in exchange for my solitude? Freedom. less stress, and more contribution.

Freedom: How luxurious to do what you want, when you want. Self-employed, I’m the emperor of my worklife. I can make decisions unilaterally and on a dime—No committees, no politics, no waiting for approval. If I want to do something new, I can do it now or when I feel like it.

After work, on the days I’m not with my wife, I eat what I want, when I want, recreate solo or occasionally with a friend, but it’s my decision. I go to sleep when I want at the room temperature I want.

Less stress.  I’m a worrier and a pleaser, a painful combination. Whenever I’m with anyone, I worry to be sure I’m kind but not cloying, helpful but not creepily so, say enough but not be dominating, be interesting but not a show-off, enthusiastic but not too intense, clear-eyed but not too much of a downer. When I’m alone, pleasing others is one less thing to worry about.

Contribution.  When I’m with others, it’s usually for socializing and other recreation. In contrast, when I’m alone, I’m much more likely to work, including the 1,200 articles I've written here on PsychologyToday.com. Rather than seeing that as pathological—workaholic—I like to think of it as wise use of my discretionary time. As regular readers of my work know, I believe the life well-led is defined by the percentage of time in contribution. And because I’m self-employed, I’m able to do the work that I’m best at and enjoy, so I'm not in danger of burning out.

The takeaway

Of course, being a loner isn't for everyone. But I know I'm happier and more contributory because I've made that lifestyle choice. And it's actually improved our marriage. It embodies psychologist Fritz Perls' statement about the good relationship: "You are you, and I am I, and if by chance we find each other, it's beautiful."

It’s popularly axiomatic that homo sapien is a social animal. But some people are more social than they want to be merely because they want to be normal. These jottings invite you to decide how social you want to be based on what you think is the right way to live your life.

Dr. Nemko’s nine books are available. You can reach career and personal coach Marty Nemko at mnemko@comcast.net.

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