Learning to be Alone
We are told so often that we should not be alone. That if we’re alone, we’re defective in some way. We should be lonely in this state. We should be using all of our resources to become not-alone anymore. We’re told that, if we are alone, we’re missing out on life.
I’ve been spending a lot of time alone lately – I’ve had some hardships in the last year that have severely taxed my emotional reserves and I’ve just needed the time, and I’ve also been steadily growing apart from my “group” of friends that I’ve held since college, and I’m finding myself in between groups. Add to that the boyfriend being embroiled in SXSW craziness for the last week and the week ahead, and I’m spending almost all of my non-work time alone. And I’m actually really enjoying it.
That is, until the little gremlin scuttles up and whispers, “God, aren’t you lonely? You’re so pathetic, couldn’t you find anyone to hang out with? Get some friends, why don’t you?”
And last night, when the gremlin scuttled up, I realized – this is not the way I need to be thinking about this! Yes, sometimes it is lonely and I really would like to have more friends I could call. But this is why I keep going back to those friends who are toxic, or those who I’ve just fallen out of sync with. I keep pressuring them and myself to be people who we’re not, all in an effort to never be alone. And this is a problematic way to be thinking. This fear of solitude, of loneliness… these fears are so very prevalent in our society. This leads to the shaming of introverts, leading many (including myself) to deny who we are in order to not feel “pathetic,” or seem “weird” or “lonely”. This stifles personal growth. Projecting this desperate fear of solitude onto everyone doesn’t allow us to feel safe with ourselves. It creates a divide; a fracture.
So, I’ve decided to own this period of solitude in my life. I am going to take it not as a signal that my life is lonely or pathetic, because it is neither of those things – and to label it as such would be to deny and disrespect so many amazing, beautiful aspects of the life that I live. Rather, I’m going to take this time as a lesson in being alone without shame. A lesson in defining myself, not by the presence of others and their approval of me, but by my own personality, and my own wants, needs and desires.
And, you know, if I don’t take that whispering gremlin to heart, I can remember that the times I’ve spent alone have facilitated magic for me. It’s opened me up to myself, to quiet, to listening to the birds, or the wind, or the rain. It’s given me space to read, learn, and write. It’s taught me things about myself that I never would have learned had I spent every moment with others. So, even when it’s not ideal, I can’t help but feel grateful to my solitude, and want to give back to it by learning to be alone without polluting that time with shame.
I leave you with this: