I am an extrovert on the extreme end of the spectrum, which means that in most instances, I am deeply uncomfortable being by myself. The thought of a solo trip gives me anxiety. If I don’t have plans on a Friday night, I will text literally everyone in my contacts so I don’t have to sit in my apartment by myself—or even worse, take myself out to a solo dinner. Even when I’m running errands, I will text any friends who live nearby, just so I have someone to chat with while I’m out. The concept of “alone time” has always felt so foreign to me.
Until, that is, the country was put in a Real World-style situation in which people have had to shelter in place for an undeterminable period with whomever they happened to be living with at the time. I ended up with my parents at their house in Dallas. It’s an extremely cushy setup—I get to spend time with them, eat out of their fridge, and generally have several times the amount of space that I otherwise would in my New York apartment. But being under the same roof with anyone for this long is bound to wear on you.
I didn’t realize how much I craved alone time until last night. My parents had coordinated with one of their friends to do a socially distanced hangout in the friend’s backyard, with everyone bringing their own food, drink, chairs, and masks. For the first time since early March, I was totally alone—left to cook and fend for myself. I cracked open an IPA from Wild Acre Brewing Co. and put on some Nat King Cole. There was a recipe I had been wanting to try from Bon Appétit for sesame noodles with crispy tofu. I took all the ingredients out, skimmed the recipe, and slowly got to work. I cubed the tofu, sliced the scallions, chopped the cucumbers. I listened to the sizzle of tofu in hot oil and the soft hum of “When I Fall in Love.” I boiled the soba, quick-pickled the cucumbers, made a sauce, and arranged everything in a pasta bowl.
I sat at the dining table by myself, with my beer, chopsticks, and bowl of noodles. For the first time in a long time, I was so relieved to be alone. I didn’t have to worry if everyone else would like the food that I had cooked. I didn’t have to make conversation. It was surprisingly … nice?
It took being quarantined in my childhood home for a month and a half. But I finally understand the value of being by myself every once in a while. To be able to turn your brain off and just … exist. I hope these solo cooking nights become a regular habit when I’m back in New York. I’ll be honest—knowing my extroverted self and the sheer energy of that city, it’s unlikely. But here’s to hoping, anyways.