The Year Of Independence: Episode 1


Independence is a beautiful thing.

But it is also absolutely terrifying. 

My most important intention for 2019 was to gain a whole new level of independence for myself. Step out of that comfort zone. Peel away my layers, and learn a whole new side of Emma. Find respect for myself. Because for what has felt like for most of my life, I never had much self-respect. 

How was I going to do that? By welcoming my weaknesses and sitting in discomfort, rather than running away.

So, here is the trial episode of Emma gaining independence:

After landing in the Charlotte airport after an emotional, heart wrenching weekend (of what seemed like the latest in a line of never ending funerals), I was feeling pity for myself. The adventurous side of me emerged and gently pushed myself towards discovering that Living Kitchen was only 15 minutes away from the airport. (For my Charlotte folks, you may know what I am talking about). 

I made the executive decision to treat myself. Intuitively, I knew that I needed some TLC with good food. However, I was by myself: take-out seemed like the best option.

But what’s a better way to practice “independence” than sitting in a restaurant alone?

So I held my head up, grabbed my book and headed on in to the verdant place. I asked the hostess if I could sit at the bar and there I was. Alone.

I chose a bar seat that had an empty seat to the left, and a man with his back turned away from me to my right, so the feeling of social anxiety didn’t simmer. Two seats to my left, two young men sat chatting. I felt their eyes glance in my direction as this young, 20 year old plopped herself down on a seat alone. I realized one of the men (the one closest to me) kept trying to catch my eye, but my social terrified self refused to turn my head that direction.

I felt myself getting nervous - the social anxiety tugging at my mind, making me start to regret sitting at a restaurant alone. 

However, the waitress asked for my order. I was reminded that I came here to enjoy myself while I ate so I smiled back as she scribbled down my order.


Yet, I couldn’t ignore the gnawing feeling that everyone else seemed to have someone to talk to, and I was the “loner” reading her book. 

Should I start a conversation with the two men down the counter?”

“Should I put my book away so I don’t look like such a nerd?“

And then Brooke sat down.

(I actually sadly never got her name, but she looked like a Brooke so just go with it).

She was beautiful. Radiated confidence. And I immediately felt intimidated. She chatted briefly with the two men to our left and ordered her meal. When the waitress walked back her way again, she also asked for a glass of rosé. 

I wanted to talk to her so badly. The energy she was putting off drew me to her; I wanted to feel confident eating by myself too. I wanted to start small talk with strangers. 

I wanted to be vibrant. 

But I said nothing to her. Completely silent. While I chewed my lettuce wrap, my mind was chattering back in forth with itself about how I could start a conversation. 

Don’t make yourself seem silly Emma.”

Yet, wasn’t the whole point coming to this restaurant to put myself outside of my comfort zone? Wasn’t this an opportunity to do so? I had to do something. 

I also came here to treat myself. And while the small voice in the back of my mind was anxiously reminding me that dessert would make me feel terrible, I wanted that damn carrot cake. 

So, lets track this so far: 

Step 1. Order the carrot cake - complete

Step 2. Talk to Brooke - incomplete

“Alright... Inhale. Exhale. And turn your head. You got 20 seconds of courage.”

“You know, I never realized how nice it would enjoying a good meal by myself.”

Brooke looked up from her phone. And smiled. Her bubbly energy was radiating. 

“I know! Im texting my husband right now and he questioned me with “You’re just sitting alone in a restaurant?” Hell yeah! If I want to sit in a restaurant by myself and scroll through Instagram, then I am going to do that!.”

All the anxiety bubbling inside of me melted away. 

Brooke and I talked for a while. I learned she was from Charlotte originally, went to school in South Carolina, and came back to the Queen City where she and her husband lived now. She loves Charlotte. She expressed to me how hot South Carolina was, and how North Carolina was better. I shared with her that I was interning in Winston this summer, before I headed off abroad. She loved hearing how much I had fallen in love with the tar-heel state.

I also told her how I really wanted a piece of that carrot cake, so I ordered one. She seemed thrilled that I did. She told me that I deserved it. I would have to agree. 

The best part about meeting Brooke, was discussing the joy of taking time for yourself. I shared with her how my mom used to always tell me how she’d go to a movie by herself when she wanted to - “you don’t talk to anyone anyway” . Yet, people always thought it was odd that she did.

I told Brooke I think I am finally realizing what my mom meant with that story. She agreed with me.

She pointed out that there is nothing wrong with being by yourself, or finding joy in yourself.

When Brooke signed her check to leave, she wished me the best of luck. In everything. And as she walked away, she paused

“I think they may have forgotten about your carrot cake. You better ask for that.” 

With a wink, she walked out the door.

Setting out of my comfort zone: 1

Social anxiety: 0

What ~ Brooke ~ Taught Me:

  1. There’s a difference between being alone and being lonely.

    Just because I may be alone at a bar in a restaurant, does not imply I am lonely. When you see someone by themselves, try not to immediately pity them. You don’t know their story. But you COULD if you just talked to them. A simple smile and eye contact can go wonders. 

  2. You can’t always #treatyoself, so when you can, make sure you do it right.

    Hi, yes I am Emma and find that taking time to do something I enjoy can be difficult. But when I understand that I want dessert, I better damn get that dessert. 

  3. Energy is contagious.

    I was drawn to talking to Brooke because she radiating off confidence. Spiritual or not, don’t tell me you can’t feel the ~vibes~ off another person. Our attitudes and projection of ourselves is contagious - so try to be mindful and put the best version of yourself out there. 

Growth, TravelEmma Ecklin