The Many Solitudes

I don’t think there’s a single person on the planet who doesn’t enjoy solitude at least occasionally. But it’s interesting why exactly those moments alone are so important to us. The easy answer would be, I don’t know, something obvious, like “taking a break from social interactions”, “getting away from annoying people”, “the chance to be yourself without witnesses”, the easy stuff. And yet different people enjoy solitude differently. More than that, there isn’t just one type of solitude in the first place. 

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I’m sorry, if this one sounds a bit off. Putting my thoughts into words, especially a foreign language is proving more difficult, and at the same time more exciting than I predicted.

This is the first post I’m writing when I’m not alone in the room. My roommate is here, but he doesn’t know what I’m doing. I don’t have any problem with that. He’s cool. But simply because someone is with me, my work looks different. The whole process feels different. He’s not bothering me, he’s minding his own business. We don’t really pay attention to each other that much, we don’t bother one another. But I can’t focus the way I focus when I’m on my own. Not because I feel uncomfortable with him around. Simple because I know he is here. Because right now, I’m not who I want to be writing these posts, I’m not Calmest Waters, and no matter how hard I’m trying, I can’t jumpstart that usual post-writing mode. I’m the real me, the same who goes to classes, goes to job, does all the things he does during the day. I’m not the person who shares his random thoughts with people. Figuratively speaking, of course.

As you see, if you read my previous posts, this is a continuation of the “different ways of thinking” rant I started earlier. I’m still having great time writing this, regardless of circumstances. But my roommate being present was exactly the thing that inspired me to share this specific random thought today.

My point is, I’m a different person when I’m alone. Who isn’t, right? Of course, not that I’m playing someone else when I’m with company, not anymore. But I do focus on different things. Again, sounds painfully obvious. But it’s the nature of that change that is most interesting, I think.

When I’m left alone, I spend my time doing two things: waste my energy with unnecessary, overly enthusiastic moves that I wouldn’t dare to do when spending time with people, and more often, simply thinking, whether I planned it or not, whatever work I was trying to do, I eventually start taking moments to think about something I suddenly found very interesting. It’s not really a procrastination. I’m not avoiding work, so to say. I’m just occupied by something else. I’m not choosing boredom over unpleasant work, I’m actually consumed by the important thinking by which I’m controlled. But that’s not the important part here. What’s important is that I know for a fact, that I’m not the only one who reacts this way to solitude, and that there are people, who act in a completely different way.

How come, that solitude, which is supposed to be universal, as in there is seemingly only a single way to be alone, and you’re either alone or you’re not, have such a different effect on people? Some do the things they couldn’t do with noise around, think, read a book, dance. And yet others get motivated to do all the things they avoided doing when there was someone around to occupy them otherwise. And others, who can’t accomplish anything when they’re alone, waiting for someone, anyone to save them from this prison that boredom is.

The first possible answer is, that it’s down to people’s characters. But if you start paying attention to this fairly uninteresting subject like I did, you will quickly discover that there isn’t really any pattern. Outgoing people don’t always suffer through their solitary time out, many can and do enjoy it their way too. Introverts don’t always get intellectually productive. One reasonably clever introvert that I know very well often dances to Phil Collins’ “Dance into the light” when nobody is around.

Maybe it’s the life they’re living? The situation they’re in? Could be. But lives change, and that change doesn’t necessarily fit the changes in the way we spend our alone time. For me they didn’t.

Well, what if it’s about the people from which we’re taking the break? What if we need a different type of rest, depending on which annoying bastard we had the unfortunate opportunity to hang out with?

Choosing the easy way out, I’ll say it’s a bit of all of those. Sounds reasonable, doesn’t it?

I mentioned earlier that there are different types of solitude. I guess some of who might be reading this already know what I meant, specifically those who had to deal with the other type.

Being alone for a moment, an hour, a day – that’s a privilege and a blessing. Being alone for years? For your entire life? That’s something else. There are some claiming to live a solitary life who would disagree. Well, they don’t really know the solitude, trust me. The real solitude, overpowering sense of loneliness is the kind of a power that… Well, that makes you start a desperate blog like this one for instance. For the record, I never felt of myself as of a victim, or someone who had it the hardest in life. But solitude, well, I know solitude. I know all the stages of it. Those of you, who claim that a solitary life is bearable just because it didn’t break you just yet – you won’t be broken, you will rot from the inside out. But that’s off topic.

Fear not. It’s not easy to fall into that void of loneliness. You can’t really force yourself in there. You have to be led down by something dark, until you start to be afraid of the light. And when that happens, there are just two things that will terrify you equally: being alone in the room, and the disaster that might happen if you aren’t enough.

And the path out of the chasm isn’t easy. I had the privilege of having some of the best people in the world around me, who didn’t just help me when I asked, they were helping me when I didn’t know I needed it. Now I’m back in the real world, and all the remains of my old ways I channel into writing posts on this blog. Spoiler alert: it won’t stop any soon.

Nobody can thrive without a healthy balance between a social life and sweet solitude. This balance is different for every person. And my solitude might not resemble yours at all, in terms of how it’s spent. But let us cherish those moments alone, and look forward to them. I will. I always will. Because no matter how confident and correct I might be saying that I have the darkness behind me, no amount of social activity will make me feel as rested and energized at the same time as the moments I spend dancing to Phil Collins’ “Dance into the light”.

-Calmest Waters

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One thought on “The Many Solitudes

  1. Pingback: Wandering alone. | Calmest Waters

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