I was brought up on a simple adage: “Practice makes perfect.” Practise your guitar and you’ll be a rock star, or practise for your exam and you’ll and breeze through it, or practise your tennis and you’ll be the next Lleyton Hewitt (heaven forbid). And behind the closed doors of band practice or the comfort of my desk or the guidance of my tennis coach, competence seemed as simple as those three words. It wasn’t. Unfortunately, “Practice makes perfect” didn’t account for an apathetic audience, a curveball essay question or an opponent who was twice my height and snuck into my age division.
So when my interest in these pastimes inevitably waned and I had the opportunity to look for new ways to fill the gaps in my “busy” schedule, I immediately looked towards non-performance hobbies. Soon I found myself blogging as I ate my breakfast, exploring the back catalogues of my favourite musicians and authors over lunch, and then following Survivor as closely as a vehement NRL fan before bed – in essence, I began practising being a recluse.
A lot of teens and twenty-somethings can’t bear the thought of spending a weekend alone – worse at home and with their parents – but I felt as if I’d become a pro. Getting up early to be productive during daylight and being comfortable in my lonesome had become my jam.
Like all worthwhile interests, being a loner soon became an addiction, leaving me to experiment and search for bigger hits. At first, I was just turning down offers to see my friends, but before I knew it, I was I was acting like an angsty teen and ignoring my parents with the best of them. It was the road that led to my latest crack at isolation: visiting a cinema to watch a film alone.
Cinemas are widely regarded as social settings – a shelter where parents can find a moment’s reprieve from their duties while their kids miraculously sit still; a school where groups of teenagers can appreciate art in a mind-numbingly digestible form; or an unusually public backseat of a car where two people can mack on at a volume they inexplicably think is discreet. But really, cinema-going seemed like an ideal pastime for ridin’ solo, what with mid-film conversations being frowned upon.
So you could imagine my surprise when my mum laughed at the thought of me going to the cinema on my own. “Enjoy your solitude,” she giggled as I walked out the door. I began wondering to myself, is it possible that onlookers are going to judge my skill and confidence in being a loner? And if the haughty disbelief of my mother didn’t make the answer clear, the disapproving looks of the other cinema-goers certainly did.
The moment I stepped through the cinema doors and my head bobbed in view of the audience, I must have suddenly became more interesting than the film behind me because it felt as if every single person was staring at me. Maybe they weren’t, or maybe they were just staring because they all thought my hair looked great, but I doubt that was the case – my hair always looks good, so it’s hardly a big deal. No, they were judging alright.
With most of the seats full, I was forced to awkwardly sit with a mother and her children and pray my youthful looks would fool them into thinking I was part of their brood. Knowing that was a stretch, I considered clarifying that I do in fact have friends and merely chose to come alone so I could hold onto some dignity. Heck, I even considered faking a phone call to prove that I’m in demand, even if just from telemarketers. The only reason I survived the film was because I rested my feet on the seat in front of me so the other cinema-goers might think I’m a rebel who’s too cool to bother with friends.
As soon as the credits began rolling, I dashed out the cinema at Usain Bolt speeds, escaping before the lights allowed the crowds to photograph me and get my shamed face trending on Instagram. I even sped out of the parking lot at barely-legal speeds (I’m not that much of a rebel) to make sure the judgemental mob couldn’t record my licence plate and track it to my home address so they could throw rotten fruit at my windows and hold up picket signs telling me to take my extremist seclusion somewhere else. People have been known to do such riotous things.
Anything is easy when no one’s watching. It’s why you can catch 10 peanuts in your mouth consecutively when you’re alone, but as soon as you try showing your family, you can’t replicate it and they begin to ask what you’re doing with your life. Practice certainly helps make perfect, but challenging yourself and learning to manage outside of your comfort zone is the only way to truly become a pro.
On another note, I give The Lego Movie a 6/10.
VINCENT VARNEY is a Sydney-based writer who truly believes that if you really want to be a massive loner and are willing to put in the hard yards, you’ll get there. Keep your chin up, kid, and follow him on Twitter.