I like being alone.
This isn’t to say that I’m a loner or a misanthrope, who stays away from the society of fellow humans out of an inability to connect or (perhaps) a strong sense of dislike. This isn’t one of those “I walk in the rain so nobody can see I’m crying” admissions either. It is something I’ve wanted to write about for a long while, though. And yes, it is a rather self-indulgent exercise. If you’re going to read through to the end, I’m really thankful. It is very kind of you.
I count myself luckier than most when I think of the people in my life. Again, it’s not an army of well-wishers come to soothe the ‘lonely’ me, it is a large, diverse group of people I have a lot of fun with, a very army of folks I can turn to at every moment of need. The companionship of family and friends is a treasure that I value, and not the least because it makes me value the exact opposite: solitude.
A large part of my soul dwells in my ‘alone-time’, periods of time where I am solitary. On my own, shut off from everyone I know. It is an aspect of my life that enriches it beyond measure, and I have often found that the lack of solitude when needed has been an indicator of the doldrums.
But seeking solitude is not necessarily the offensive, cold exercise many people think it is. It is not pathological either. Once you immerse yourself in the joys of solitude, you will find many a kindred soul. My most rewarding friendships, indeed, are with people who understand the mutual need of alone-time, people who are there at the times that matter, people who I go months without meeting, but when we meet, we pretty much pick up from where we left last time.
I believe there is an integral part of our souls, our personalities, that must never be defined by other people. An element devoid of inhibition, an assertion, however small, of an aspect of ourselves that is projected as it is, ‘take it or leave it.’ Time spent alone, in the depths of one’s own thought, trying to know and understand oneself better, that is what complements the benefits of associating with other people to shape us into the people we are, and the people we want to be.
Solitude has led me to a lot of the things I treasure most in life. Walking and travelling on my own, for example. It is at the beginning and the end of a journey, that a traveller is defined by people, places and associations. The time it takes to navigate between those points is a period of suspension, a little window where you belong to yourself and to no one else, where there is no need for you to be anybody but who you are.
When you are alone you don’t have to lie to yourself. Whether or not you do so really does determine who you are then. A solitary walk is therapeutic for exactly this reason. Devoid of another physical presence, the individual processes their own thoughts the way they like.
But solitude and the society of other people are essentially complementary. In a situation as close to ideal as possible, each teaches the value of the other. Hence my assertion that one must be ‘solitary’ and not ‘lonely’. I spend days on end alone, sometimes, my connect with people around me barely more than superficial, but it helps to know that a kind voice is not far away. There is the internet, the phone, the neighbourhood. Solitude will teach you to love those who care for you even more, because no misery is greater than when you look for a kind face, and find none.