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Master Your “Me Time” without Regret
2013년 01월 16일 (수) 13:57:08 GLOBE globe@jbnu.ac.kr
   
Lately, something I’ve noticed from conversations with Korean friends is that Western culture has much more of an appreciation for “me time.” By “me time,” I mean time spent alone – not lonely, just alone, with one’s self. Whether it’s a simple meal at a restaurant while reading a newspaper, a day-long hike in the mountains, or a week-long stint of backpacking, this solo time is valuable for independence, soul-searching, and reflection. If you’re fretting over the fact that you’re young and single, don’t think of these moments alone as sad and lonely. One day, when you’re married or plunged deep into your career, you’ll actually be wishing you had more of them!
For me, half of my graduate school years were spent sitting solo with a stack of textbooks in a coffee house I adored, surrounded by tables of people doing the same. I’d occasionally see many of these same people taking a break to eat at nearby restaurants, most often alone, as I was, with a leisurely bottle of beer or glass of wine. We’d nod and say hello, being acquaintances, but inevitably sit separately, without a second thought, and relax, listen to music, or read over magazines. It was never odd. It never should be! We all had our friends whom we saw frequently, but we all realized, I suppose, that being social is not necessarily greater than being solo. Sometimes, you’re busy, or you’re bothered, or your brain just needs to be cleared.
Alone.
1. INDEPENDENCE
Most importantly, the ability to sit alone at a restaurant or coffee shop with confidence reflects that you are truly independent. Why spare yourself the food you are so desperately craving or the luscious taste of hot cappuccino on a bitterly cold day because your friends are busy and you fear sitting alone?
In the West, a meal or drink out with one’s self is not that uncommon and is certainly not a point of pity. You’ll frequently see this in popular TV shows, such as Friends, Sex and the City, or the more current Big Bang Theory. Characters have friends and partners and frequently meet with them, but also have times to go out alone for a bite or a drink. In one episode of Sex and the City, in fact, the main character, Carrie, gains an appreciation for having a glass of wine alone while looking fancy and fabulous as ever. She even does so without any of what the show calls “dining-alone armor” – magazines, books, or documents to look over so as to appear busy and not awkward.
Recently, a friend mentioned to me the pity he felt for seeing a man alone in the movie theater. But why, I asked him, do you think this man is lonely, and not just busy? And why, I added, does he need a friend to sit with him for three hours in silence, where they cannot even appreciate each other’s company? I recalled for him a friend from New York who said he only saw movies alone; it was, he said, the only way to appreciate them fully, without distraction or the obligation of chatting. Sometimes, when we think of these situations independently, not through the dark-tinted glasses of what society says we should do, we can see them in a new and refreshing way.
2. SOUL SEARCHING
From my own perspective, I believe that searching one’s soul is the most vital reason to embrace “me time” on any level. This is especially true when it comes to travel. In my second year in Korea, I hiked to a different temple every Wednesday, all day, alone, since all my friends were working. It was an opportunity for thinking deeply, for noticing details without distraction, and for sitting in quiet, natural places where my thoughts could become clear. It was also a chance to experience culture, a chance we don’t get by sitting at home in front of our TVs or laptops.
The longer solo trips, whether months backpacking Europe or just a week going cross-country in Korea, are most often the times when people “find” themselves (and find lifelong friends, actually) by heading out alone. Everyone should have this experience at least once.
Years ago, while in Turkey in the middle of a many-month backpacking trip, an older Swedish couple stopped me and offered to buy me dinner. They were passionately excited to hear about my solo adventures. “I miss those days,” the woman kept saying. “It’s lovely to travel with someone you love, but you don’t have the same epiphanies or bursts of imagination. “ Their comments genuinely surprised me at first, but as I get older I realize how precious and few those opportunities are.
3. REFLECTION
And lastly, reflection. When bad things happen, whether breakups, deaths, or just failures in our life plans, it’s hard to find meaning. We tend to look to our friends and family to feed us answers, but the truth is, the best solutions come from within, if we give ourselves time to be alone and realize them.

For all these reasons, you should embrace your me-focused moments wherever you roam, before the world swallows them up in exchange for a lifetime of shared time. That, too, will be beautiful, but you will always long for time with you.
“Me time” is just that – time for ME, with a book or game and a plate of pasta or breath of air at the top of Mt. Moak. If we constantly surround ourselves with the voices of others simply because we feel we should, we leave no time to hear the voices from within or appreciate and respect ourselves for who we are.
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