Solitude

We live in a world where we have to be constantly connected; where our routine dictates the first thing that we do is reach for our phones in the morning, and the last thing we touch at night. We check for missed calls, text messages, email, and every other social media platform we have. We have an incessant need to be in constant company of other people–even virtually. The idea of being alone is frowned upon, and the assumption is that anyone who is alone is lonely.

For instance, when you get to a certain point in your life, it’s almost a sin to be single. You start getting pressured to date, or being interrogated as to why you aren’t, as if there’s some sort of defect. It’s as if the idea of not wanting a relationship or not wanting to be with someone is ludicrous. The idea that you just want to be, and live your life by yourself is so foreign, almost. So much so, that companionship is so important that hookup culture is accepted because you’re not technically alone, almost as if friendship doesn’t count anymore–like friends don’t count as company. And the worst part of the belief that we always need to be around people is that you can’t tell anyone that you just need alone time without someone thinking that you’re depressed or upset.

Why?!?!

We live in a world with so many different types of people and different personalities. Some people are introverts and they just need to be by themselves to recharge after a grueling day of being around people all the time. Some people, like me, are extroverts who just want to relax, too. What’s so bad about being by yourself? It doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re in isolation or that you can’t be with other people, though sometimes it may be the case. In the words of Kelly Clarkson, “Doesn’t mean I’m lonely when I’m alone.” (Stronger, 2011). Sometimes being alone is required to recharge after a long day, or a long week. It’s not isolation, it’s solitude. And to some that may mean the same thing, it doesn’t. The difference between isolation and solitude is in how you feel. If you feel lonely while you’re alone, and dread or despair, that’s isolation. On the other hand, if you feel free or creative and just content with being by yourself, that’s solitude.

I personally struggle with the thought being alone. I always thought that being alone meant that I was isolating myself and that is bad, especially after I accepted that I struggle with depression and all the self-help books told me that I shouldn’t be alone. But that’s not true at all, sometimes I just like it. It’s nice not to have to expunge energy on other people all the time. It’s nice to just lay in bed, rest, and relax. There’s a freedom and lightness to not having to constantly check your phone and just do your own thing. It’s nice, and healthy! There are times when you need people, and there are times when you just need yourself. And when you need to just be on your own, and you’ll be okay just being on your own, go for it! Enjoy the solitude!

There are times when I will go places by myself, which is something I tend not to do, and it makes me feel good. Going out to a restaurant alone, getting my hair and nails done alone, walking outside alone all feel empowering at times. It gives me a chance to focus on the other people and my environment without being distracted by my company. It gives me a chance to enjoy my own company, something that rarely happens. And I learn a lot about myself when I’m alone, like the fact that I’m not as thrilled with people as I think I am. I am programmed to be so afraid of being alone with my own thoughts that I purposely throw myself into social situations, even when all I want to do is to be by myself and write. To be by myself period. I think that if I’m left alone long enough, I’ll spiral downwards. And that could be true, but the other half of the time when I’m alone and not lonely, I feel great! And I get to free my creative urges and write. So being alone isn’t all bad.

Also, there was a period in my life when I felt really alone and lonely. Eventually, that isolation became a positive thing. The loneliness faded when I accepted myself for who I was, and then I wasn’t so afraid to be alone anymore. And being alone made me happy. Made me confident. I became much more self aware and in tune with me. I had a new sense of self worth and it was great. Then I started dating because that’s what you do, right? And I threw myself into work and school–constant exposure to people. And eventually, I started losing myself again because I didn’t have any alone time. I was constantly around people. Constantly ignoring me and my needs. And when everything came tumbling down, I realized that I just need me time. And that’s what I’m doing now. The past few months of being alone, I wasn’t really… and the ones that I was, were the bad ones. I’m hitting the positive alone time now–the solitude. And I feel really excited about it. I’m writing again, and I feel lighter.

I am going to embrace the solitude because I need to, and maybe you do too. We all get burned out from always being connected with others, so maybe we should connect with ourselves a bit more to even out the score.

 

-Ling

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