Over the past few months, I’ve written extensively about travel. From my solo trips to travel tips, I lingered quite a bit on the topic. I originally planned to continue on that vein today, but it might be time to change things up a bit and discuss something a little less fun and a lot more uncomfortable:
- Giving people space
- Respecting their boundaries
As I’ve said several times before, I’m an only child. My mom migrated to the United States when I was a preteen. That, coupled with some unfortunate circumstances, allowed me to live on my own for ten years before I moved to America.
I absolutely loved it!
A Love for Solace
My friends could never quite wrap their heads around this love for my own personal space. I would go out with them and then still disappear. They would find me half an hour later standing by the beach, staring at the ocean.
I often booked excursions without telling anyone, going off snorkelling by myself or walking miles along the beach with music in my ears. I also generally turned down any social activity that involved people spending time in my home. Parties at my place because I was the only one who didn’t live with parents or roommates? No, thank you.
This has not changed. If anything, running a fairly popular lifestyle blog has only made me appreciate my privacy more. And, living in such close proximity to family has increased the value I place on taking some time off to be alone. In fact, I have written about this before:
Don’t get me wrong. I love spending time with my family and friends and a romantic evening out has its perks. But, when I decide I want to be left alone, any interruptions to that will probably not end well.
To maintain that boundary, I’ve constantly had to ask people to respect my occasional but deep-seated need for personal time — over and over and over again. I’ve done this in the nicest ways possible. I explain that I’m busy and want to focus on work, or just need some time to myself, or have been giving up all my free time for social activities and just want to unwind.
The older I’ve become, the more people accept this without question and leave me to my own devices. The people who know me best never even need to be asked. They can tell by my matter-of-fact and unenthusiastic replies that it might be time to let me be. These are the people I generally do not need space from, even when I need space from everyone else.
Still, there are always those few people who never quite understand or accept that I need my space, or who believe I absolutely need that space but volunteer to elect themselves as an exception. These people drive me absolutely insane!
Playing the Diplomat
In the past, I handled them by patiently re-making my requests time and time again. I get that you want to talk, but I really want to finish studying for this exam. Can we do this later? Okay, I explained that I needed to study. I’m still studying. How about I tell you when I’m done? I did tell you I have exams, right? I really can’t talk right now.
Some of them became angry and told me off, while others continued to believe they were either an exception to the rule or that persistence would win out. Some of these people are lonely or bored and are eager to spend time with anyone but themselves. Others are romantically interested in me when I am neither available nor romantically interested in them. The rest are either oblivious or have an utter disregard for people’s boundaries. And, I’m sure, many of these overlap.
Whatever the reason, I tire of playing the diplomat. Constantly turning down social invitations from one person when I have made it clear I’m either not available or focusing on solo excursions. Feeling pressured to respond to text messages I would rather ignore. Wanting to rip my hair out when the person I just told, “I really need some alone time” decides to call me on my day off.
No Longer Asking
With our time in Atlanta drawing to a close, I once again have this problem to contend with. I will never understand the feeling of entitlement people have to another person’s time. Nor will I understand how anyone can find the ego to believe they are the answer to someone else’s stressful week.
If I work a lot and have been surrounded by family 24/7 and finally get a day to myself, would I not probably want to spend that day alone? We won’t even get started on the people who will know you have limited social time but insist on being the person you spend it with every single time. Do I not want to ever see someone else? Are there not other people who might want to see me?
I don’t know how anyone misses the underlying selfishness in this. This constant assertion of themselves as the answer to someone else’s need for relaxation or fun. Maybe I’m the selfish one — selfish with the one day off I take per week, while I save for a cross-country move. Who knows?
What I do know is that I’ve stopped asking. I should never have to tell someone I need my own space more than once. After all, it’s only mine to give.
Did you ever have a difficult time creating space for yourself when you needed it? Have you come across anyone who just could not grasp the concept that you might want some alone time? How did you handle the situation?
I’m really interested to hear other people’s takes on this. Most of my friends are like me, and therefore, also biased towards maintaining the right to not just our space but our peace of mind.