I’m not sure if it’s a function of my personality or just circumstances, but I am almost never alone. I wake up in the morning at the same time as my roommate. We drink coffee and chat about the news for an hour or so. At work, I’m surrounded by people. At lunch I go to the gym and workout with a partner. Most every day after work I have some kind of social event — dinner, party, happy hour, date, meeting, etc.
I almost never sit at home and watch TV and when I do, it’s usually with my roommate. When I’m by myself I have a hard time sitting and just watching TV. Yesterday, for example, I was by myself in the apartment. I wasn’t sure what to do so I sat down and turned on the TV. Instead of just watching the show, I was also flipping through Barron’s and reading emails on my cell phone. Obviously, you can’t do three things at once so this was largely a waste of time. I eventually managed to get some work done, but it took me a long time to get started and to get focused.
There was another time in my life where I experienced a similar issue. It was the summer of 2003 and I had just gotten back from a semester abroad in Hong Kong. With an internship at Citigroup, classes, living in close quarters with everyone and SARS, the trip was hugely stimulating and social. I arrived back home and decided to take a summer internship working for Clear Channel in Raleigh, NC. I sublet a huge apartment near the Duke campus – I had the whole place to myself and there was hardly anybody else in the building because it was summer.
I knew a few people there, but aside from work, I was by myself A LOT. At first, I went nuts. I would get home from work at 5 or so and have no idea what to do… I was wasting a ton of time on Instant Messenger and aimlessly browsing the Internet. After a few days of this I started going for long runs through the campus every day when I got home from work. I think running can be a very meditative and even spiritual thing. I’m not sure how many miles I would run, but I remember how hot and muggy it was. I really enjoyed breathing the thick air and sweating profusely in the 90+ degree heat. The last stretch of my route was a 200 yard straight path of well worn dirt and gravel road. I would run as fast as I could for that stretch until I crossed over the imaginary line set by a pillar on the rock wall which runs along the border of the campus. After the sprint my heart would be beating so fast… it felt like it would pop out of my chest. It was great.
After the run, I would come back to the apartment, drink a Coors Light and fix dinner. At night I would watch TV, talk on the phone or read. In about three weeks, I had adjusted well and ended up having a great summer.
The reason I’m thinking about all this now is because I may soon have lots of free time on my hands until school starts in the fall. I hope to have lots of client work to do, but there won’t be anybody hanging over my shoulder, yelling at me if I don’t do it on time. It’s going to be very hard to adjust to spending time alone and working from home.