Monday, April 23, 2007

A Good Game of Solitude

"Do you remember in high school when everyone would walk in packs or do everything with either someone else or ten other people?"

It was exactly seven years ago and I was on a long distance call with a friend. We were comparing notes on our respective college lives since we were attending universities on opposite coasts. We were also reflecting on how different our lives have managed to become -- only a mere several months fresh out of high school.

"Yeah, I know," I retorted. "I don't think I ever had to eat lunch alone or do anything alone for that matter... it was fun though."

"Yeah but It's different in college though," she said in a wistful manner. "Most people are usually alone. And it seems like they actually enjoy it that way."

Fast forward to the present, and that particular conversation still resonates in my head.

I was once that naive little girl who enshrouded herself with numerous friends in order to fill a void that she didn't quite understand. I was so afraid of being alone and what people thought of me that I made sure that I didn't run out of people to be with. And those instances where I was left with no choice but to be alone were the longest and most dreadful hours, even minutes, of my life.

See, I didn't understand back then that being alone didn't necessarily equate being lonely. Neither did I realize that it's entirely possible to be lonely amongst a crowd that one can easily get lost in. As a matter of fact, sometimes being surrounded by a thousand faces just reiterates loneliness and isolation. It took me years to figure out that being lonely and being alone are mutually exclusive -- and that there is nothing wrong with being either.

As I got older, I have learned to embrace the idea of myself -- including having myself as a companion and even as a friend. Unfortunately, it was through a series of bitter realizations and wake up calls that I have come to discover that sometimes, all you have is you to rely on. I have always been blessed with kind-hearted and genuine people surrounding me. It was only a matter of time that my trust acquire a certain shade of jadedness and weariness. However, the key was not to give up. Instead, it was about trusting yourself enough to know that you will indeed be okay.

Being alone is like getting stripped off all insecurities and pretentions that we often find ourselves hiding behind. It is like getting faced one-on-one with the naked truth and coming to terms with it. It is learning to be whole... with everything else serving as accoutrements designed to enhance and to complement. In a few words, it is oddly liberating.

Oftentimes, I am eager to spend time with myself though, don't get me wrong, I always appreciate the company of good friends and loved ones. However, it is in the simplest forms of pleasure do I derive much happiness from -- such as sitting on a bench armed with my iPod and ice cream whilst people-watching and creating their stories in my head. Or sitting down for a meal in the middle of a busy food court after a long day of (window) shopping and strolling around. Or even a soulful train ride away from the familiar and the unceremonious. A few years ago, this would have been taboo in my books but now, it is a privilege and a luxury that I look forward to from time to time.

Finding joy in myself was like finding home and being comfortably nestled amid the walls -- with the doors and windows wide open for the entry of friendship and love. However, solitude isn't merely a wall that we use to conceal ourselves from the harsh realities. Rather, it is the binding force that keeps us together in times of turbulence and discomfiture.

It is the lull that we need after a storm. It is survival, it is reward, and it is peace. And it is utmost satisfaction.

Paul Johannes Tillich (1854) once said, "Language has created the word LONELINESS to express the pain of being alone. And it has created the word SOLITUDE to express the glory of being alone."

Can anything be truer than that?


Blogger Protegeoflife said...

Good post well written and now u have put me in thinking mode well hmmm can think am dumb but gr888 blog

11:37 PM  
Blogger meggie said...

This is a great post, & very thought provoking.
Thank you for visiting my blog, & leaving a comment.
I have very much enjoyed the visit to your blog.

4:44 AM  
Blogger fifi said...

There is a difference indeed,between being alone and solitude,and how right you are in saying that as adolescents we fear it. As a mother I am often desperate for it...
even surrounded by people you can still be alone.
I love the people-watching image you described. Observing the world armed with ice cream.

4:59 AM  
Blogger Andrew said...

While a like the glory of being alone, going through life alone terrifies me.

5:13 AM  
Blogger soul&body said...

i like to be alone sometimes, but, i need the person too...
i want somebody to talk!!!

5:15 AM  
Blogger jellyhead said...

I'm with you, Princess Banter (great pseudonym, by the way!)

I think learning to relish being alone is an important step towards being a whole and fulfilled person. Just before I met my husband, I was at that point - really happy to be single, and only responsible for me. Of course, now saddled with a husband and kids (who I DO love dearly!), the alone time is even more precious to me!

Thanks for stopping by my blog :)

6:01 AM  
Blogger Carrie said...

Mmhm - I agree completely; being lonely and being alone are two very different things. As much as I enjoy the pleasure of others company (except when they're badmouthing you a la my last post-which thank you for visiting by the way!) I really do enjoy the pleasure of my own. And there is nothing wrong with that.

6:16 AM  
Blogger Lisa Francisco said...

Welcome, Welcome, Welcome to my little blog! It's always great to meet new people in this blog world!

Thank you for stopping by! It is much appreciated by this little girl over here!

Great post!

I'm an only child and I did not have much friends, if any, growing up. I always wanted to fit in and never could. I was the one who got picked on and when I was part of the crowd, I was always on the outskirts. It wasn't until a couple of years ago that I realized that I am not part of that crowd and I never will.

It was always an ill fit. Why do I want to fit my size 9 feet into size 6 shoes? It just caused me unnecessary pain and left needless scars.

When I finally decided that it's time to be me it was scary and liberating. Yes, I was alone because I never allowed myself to be me and be around people that were like me...people who are different and do things differently. :)

Yes there are many moments where I am lonely and it's harder to meet friends as an adult but I'm playing catch up to me. That is the most important thing. And when I finally catch up to me, hopefully the rest of the world will. :)


9:55 AM  
Blogger Keshi said...

true. I once wrote a post abt Solitude. there's alot of peace when we r alone. At the same time, it can be quite heart-breaking when we r lonely.


11:27 AM  
Blogger Sling said...

I have always been a loner,and prefer solitude in general.
Maybe it was being the middle child.I grew up feeling like an observer in my own family.When I find myself in a group,I can convert to "Social" me,but it is an aquired skill,and not entirely comfortable.I feel loneliness in the most profound sense,when I remember the world as it once was.Or at least,how we perceived it to be.
Very nice post princess!

11:32 AM  
Blogger Shantu said...

Such a remarkable post. It resonates memories of my past, and mirrors the big event that's happpening right now in my life.

I also rather naively enshrouded myself in groups, but it was not because I was afraid of being alone; it was to avoid being an individual. I had way too much of a complex about my skinny frame and crooked nose to even try to stand out. When I was away from school, I relished being alone. I learned at an early age to love the solitude you so eloquently described.

The next 17 years I was always living with somebody (ex-wife, kids, ex girlfriend). But next month will mark a new era in my life. I will be deployed to Argentina for two weeks, and when I come back, I will be moving into my new apartment. I'll be living by myself for the first time.

Anyway, thanks for this wonderful post, as it has reminded me of my lost youth and knocked my apprehension about moving down a notch

12:07 PM  
Blogger Tracey said...

Interesting thoughts. I knew a woman who grew up an only child. She enjoyed her time alone as an adult, not needing interaction with others to feel fulfilled. Her two grown boys would always rush over to keep her company, though, when their dad was out of town. She always got a chuckle out of that!

Personally? I'm a people person and adore chatty conversations, but I also love time to myself to just reflect.

12:54 PM  
Blogger Vanishree's Corner said...

I like your blog.
Please visit and leave comment if you are interested in link exchange.
Happy Blogging :)

1:20 PM  
Blogger CM-Chap said...

Hi princess,

Very well echoed thoughts.. I fully vouch that spending time for yourself is defntly needed.

"Oftentimes, I am eager to spend time with myself though" - It makes you realise what you want it life.. You understand your inner desire.

"I was once that naive little girl" - Really??? I never know... I never thought so... jst kidding


1:59 PM  
Blogger mjd said...

That is a great quote. You have written a wonderful and profound post about the art and joy of bring alone and finding solitude. Gratefully, I understand this solitude, and unfortunately (or maybe fortunately), I know the sorrow of being lonely in a crowd of people.

2:03 PM  
Blogger thisisme said...

What a beautiful thought provoking post. I normally skim read a post, but found myself rereading it twice before coming to comment. Thanks for stopping by and visiting too.

5:05 PM  
Blogger foam said...

i know what you mean.
i relish my solitude.
and can ache with loneliness amongst a huge crowd even though my smile belies that fact.

6:01 PM  
Blogger paddy said...

Really nice post.
Yes being alone away from the crutch of (always as we tent to do) projecting on-to others what we are indeed ourselves is hard to do. I know even though alone we find in our thoughts the same possibility. Being alone is putting a stop to finding fault in others and to see it is the fault in ourselves. Cheers! Y:-) Paddy
PS: Thanks for dropping by.

6:08 PM  
Blogger Steve said...

So, do we then kiss tomorrow good-bye?

6:38 PM  
Blogger no I am not a tree hugger, but... said...

Thank you for such a well expressed piece of writing. I only wish more women could value being alone (not lonely) and there might be a few less of them stuck in god awful relationships they can't excape because being with someone horrid is easier than being with no-one at all. This happened to my best friend and finally she is living on her own and loving being alone for the first time in her life.

6:45 PM  
Blogger The Boy said...

Hmm, as a species we are a social animal, we need others around us. Though I classify myself as a loner, an enjoyer of solitude, I know I also can not stand having no one to interact with. I need that monkey grooming as a vital part of my life. The question, as always, is how to find the balance.

8:20 PM  
Blogger Tink said...

Well said! When I was 20 I lived in a house with 12 people! I thought that surrounding myself was the key to living an active and fulfilling life. When the house fell apart and I had to move out on my own, it took years to make another friend. I learned a lot in those 2 years. More than I'd learned in the previous 5.

8:38 PM  
Blogger Sabrina said...

I'm a first-timer, and I enjoyed your posts a lot. This one resonates with me: only child, used to my solitude, don't particularly like groups, trying to find balance between my precious time alone and sharing my life with a husband and now a baby on the way. But I've also experienced crushing loneliness. The most important thing for me has becoming comfortable with who I am, whether alone or in those goofy groups.

8:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

very deep and insightful. i felt like that alot in high school, yet when college came around, i felt the opposite, like your friend said. now, there are times when i just want to get the heck away from all the crazy people.

9:04 PM  
Blogger Rajeev said...

wonderful post :)
and very very true.
I enjoy bein single most of the times, or rather i want to be single most of the times, but seriously speakin, there is a parta me which is always wanting companionship!
Nice post.

thanx for visitin my blog.

Peace & Love

9:07 PM  
Blogger N said...

Do you realise what you just did with this post? You made me think! That too for a long time.. I am passing thru a phase in life where I am finding it difficult to distinguish between solitude and loneliness! thanks for the visit and taking pains to comment!

9:14 PM  
Blogger Cazzie!!! said...

Very interesting post. When I was sick 2 years back, I almost died in hospital. All I was was alone in that room in isolation. I battled through an infection, I had numerous pain killers and antibiotics. I had friends come see me and I didnt remember them visiting sometimes because I was so sick.
Then, when I started to heal, I only had mySELF.
You see, if you look at the word myself, and really look closely at it, you are talking about yourSELF within. It is knowing our SELF and being comfortable with our SELF that helps us in so many ways.
It allows us to share our love and energy once we can see ourSELF for what it is :)

9:35 PM  
Blogger Cazzie!!! said...

Very interesting post. When I was sick 2 years back, I almost died in hospital. All I was was alone in that room in isolation. I battled through an infection, I had numerous pain killers and antibiotics. I had friends come see me and I didnt remember them visiting sometimes because I was so sick.
Then, when I started to heal, I only had mySELF.
You see, if you look at the word myself, and really look closely at it, you are talking about yourSELF within. It is knowing our SELF and being comfortable with our SELF that helps us in so many ways.
It allows us to share our love and energy once we can see ourSELF for what it is :)

9:36 PM  
Blogger Sunshine said...

I don't know how you found me, but thanks for stopping by my blog!
I agree, the move from mob mentality in high school to be alone is sometimes a weird transition.
Now, I quite enjoy my solitute and doing things alone since I have a family that demands of me, I covet some peace and quiet!
Thanks for the visit, I'll definitely be back!

10:11 PM  
Blogger Tapasya said...

Awesome post! I could realte to it to a large extent. There have been times when I've forced myself to be a part of a group of ppl called 'friends', so as to fill the emptiness within me, in vain though. Nice post, and nice blog.

11:05 PM  
Blogger Biddie said...

Wonderful and insightful post. Thanks for stopping by my place. I'll be back!

11:46 PM  
Blogger Shamash said...

first of all thanks for stopping by my blog secondly i must say this is a superbly written post...
and your pseudonym is quite different
anyways i will be visiting again
am linking ur blog to mine..
vist my blog again too


12:02 AM  
Anonymous Karmyn R said...

You are spot on - there is a difference b/n loneliness and solitude.

The older you become and more self-assured, the less "being alone" bothers you. As a mother and wife, I highly value that time I get to be alone sometimes. It is a time for me to reflect and breathe - to replenish my soul.

I'll be back....anyone with a Princess Leia quote is GREAT!!!!

12:24 AM  
Blogger Rajarshi said...

how do you keep coming up with such thought-provoking posts? it's great to hear you went to harvard (or atleast hanged around at harvard yard!)is there any other advice you could give me about life in cambridge, ma?
i'm thinking of linking your blog to mine! :)

12:38 AM  
Anonymous susan said...

Great post and a lot of insightful commenters.

I think that one of the most important lessons to learn is to be comfortable in your own skin. Sadly, not too many people seem to "get" that...

12:54 AM  
Blogger whimsicalnbrainpan said...

I couldn't agree with you more. I not only enjoy being alone but I am one of those people who has to have my alone time.

Thanks for stopping by my blog.

4:59 AM  
Blogger thethinker said...

So very true.

And it applies well to me as a high school student. I should probably forward this to some of the people I go to school with.

5:03 AM  
Blogger Lizard Princess said...

Hi! It is interesting to me that in all of these comments, no one has mentioned the role society has played in the loner mentality that many of us have aquired.
We want to "connect" (ie. blogging) but we stay far enough away from people so they can't really do any "real" damage to us.
We are in the loner era, folks. For the first time in history, one can stay in one's house for years at a time and never leave, and still make a living and buy one's own food and do all the things that are neccessary to sustain life without ever having to truly communicate face-to-face with another human being. Healthy??? Well, I guess this next generation will have some stories to tell in the coming years.

Obviously, most people are not choosing to stay in their homes for years at a time, but many are opting to stay home and watch DVD's ordered through the mail rather than going to the theatre, or ordering out food rather than going "out" to a resteraunt- get what I mean? My opinion (for what it's worth) is that we need each other and if we "hole up" too much, we'll lash out at one another those times when we do see each other.
Just a theory.

6:52 AM  
Blogger --Sunrise-- said...

Princess - I agree with so much of what you've said, that I feel like quoting your whole post in my comment!

And - such a beautiful quote.. I totally agree with it.

I guess all I can add to this comment, save from quoting most of the things you've said and going, "Me too!!", is to say that it is difficult - very difficult - to win a battle over someone who is content/happy. Being so throws a thousand retorts to the sceptics, without saying a single word. :)

7:23 AM  
Blogger Silvara said...

Hey there! Great post :) I only know too well that feeling of being alone and lonely. I battled it throughout high school and even in my university years. Even now with a group of friends I can find myself feeling so lonely and other times I cherish my solitary nature and just have ME-time.

It's part of growing up and changing and learning. I think that fear of being completely alone is what stops most people from every truly enjoying solitude - but if you can move past that and realise that there are times when being by yourself is ok - people might not feel so lonely.

I think I used alone and lonely too many time that I confused myself and my brain hurts. Going to go lie down again :P

7:57 AM  
Blogger Mumbai Guy said...

Been through this phase. Actually, some of your lines (see below) are strikingly similar to my diary :)

"Neither did I realize that it's entirely possible to be lonely amongst a crowd that one can easily get lost in."

This meant, atleast to me, I need company. Not necessarily the soulmate kind, just someone to talk/walk your real mind to.

8:05 AM  
Blogger Brooklyn Frank said...

cool, great post. muchos kudos.

9:31 AM  
Blogger mathew said...

beautiful post..loved that last can be lonely in a huge group..all depends on our priorities at the moment...

2:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

the word SOLITUDE expresses the glory of being alone...
very true

3:07 PM  
Blogger The Grunt said...

I'm certainly that way to where I can be alone, yet not feel it.

How'd you find me, Princess? I'm glad you did, btw.

4:19 PM  
Blogger lemonade said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

9:44 PM  
Blogger Maverick said...

this post is very close to my heart, cos i was alone in almost all my happiest moments n i was really never sad abt it.

12:53 AM  
Blogger lemonade said...

i left an enormous comment yesterday but i guess it got lost..!!!
just wanted to say that i totally relate...jus finishing a year of college n my life has seen the most changes in these past 10 months than any other period ..i seem to happier when im alone..jus sittin in a cafe with jus a book for company is one of the is jus one of the luxuries of being alone...but the problem with this situation is that my friends are starting to think thats m becoming a recluse wich isnt true at all..!
awesome psot...really got me thinking..! linked to u :)

5:16 AM  
Blogger nel said...

ahhh ... "me", "myself" and "i" ... that's loving ... heh, heh, ... cheers, princess ... ;)

9:59 AM  
Blogger naren_buddy said...

thts the case wid me too..many frends but still alone....i can relate to this post

11:33 AM  
Blogger it's the little things... said...

I LOVE to be alone. Then, when I'm not, I feel recharged and fully able to embrace my companions.

8:44 AM  
Blogger alpine path said...

A great post! Solitude is indeed the one thing that keeps people sane amidst all the crowd and million ideas that throng one’s head. We do need time for ourselves. Sadly, most of the people think otherwise. They are not aware of how much they stand to lose.

5:34 PM  

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