Column: Goat Puke
“Ordinary men hate solitude. But the Master makes use of it, embracing his aloneness, realizing he is one with the whole universe.” - Lao Tzu
We all know the feeling. Especially during these times. Loneliness. Solitude or the state of being alone, on the other hand, shouldn’t be reduced to a negative feeling.
Today, and for quite a long time now, extroverted traits and behaviors have been given the utmost importance. If you are shy, then that’s "bad" and you’re told to work on that shyness. If you’re quiet, then that is also "bad," and you are told to work on speaking more and speaking louder. If you’re a “loner,” oh dear, are you going to have a hard time. I use that ugly term "loner" because it resonates with me. If you know me, you would know that I have been, and still am, kind of a loner.
In professing this to people, I’ve realized how negatively they view this state. They automatically switch to pity mode and provide uncalled for reassurance. I appreciate the concern, but it’s not like I have a disease. Yes, it was awkward, at times, but I wasn’t miserable.
Not everyone will feel the same way about being alone, but one thing’s for sure:
Alone ≠ Lonely.
The Perks of Being Alone
Yes, believe it or not, there are indeed many perks to being alone. A lot can happen when you’re all by yourself, even if that means you're simply catching up on some much needed sleep.
Hello again, dear thoughts.
You’ve probably noticed that when you’re alone in a quiet house with no one to entertain you, the thoughts will start to flood in. Once this starts happening, you’d likely reach for your phone to text whomever or to scroll, scroll, scroll. These thoughts may be intrusive and annoying, hence why you would feel inclined to distract yourself, but sometimes you just have to let them flow through. If you block a flowing stream of water with a makeshift dam (your phone), the core issue is still left untouched, and your thoughts will soon start spilling over, almost in rebellion for your lack of attention.
When you’re alone, you finally give yourself time with yourself. You’re like that one friend that you haven’t talked to in awhile that you just need to catch up with. It may be hard to do this in the beginning, but letting yourself marinate in your thoughts or emotions, feeling them as they are and letting them pass, is an important thing to do. If you do not like that vulnerable state of simply letting the thoughts and emotions loose, meditation or, my personal favorite, journaling can help you reach a state of greater mental clarity. Give yourself and your mind some love. Listen. Who knows what you might find out?
Another perk of being alone is, well the silence. While that may be a gnawing feature for many, it can also be a rather much needed change in a very busy world. With this newfound time you've gained from having to be alone, you can now focus on anything. As your mind drifts off and as you grow tired of being on your phone the whole day, perhaps you'd glance over at your keyboard that has been collecting dust over the years, a good book that you've put off finishing, or a completely undecorated room that has been waiting to be blessed by your artistic eye.
You have a lot more time to work on yourself and to revive old hobbies or goals. Use it. Take advantage of the silence and fill it with activity.
Many great thinkers have come up with important discoveries by locking themselves up in their studies for years without much contact with the outside world. Now, I'm not saying that you should go to this extreme, but that observation alone says a lot about the potential that lies in solitude. That's not to say that these discoveries were made in a linear fashion as it is very possible that they simply had no choice but to dedicate all of their time to their crafts, solitude being one of the byproducts of such efforts.
To us students, this would look more like taking the opportunity to listen to those random moments of inspiration or realization, jotting them down if necessary. You might learn more about yourself than you expected.
I've come to a realization that there isn't really a well-known word that is the opposite of "lonely" or "alone". I mean who says, "I'm with people and am socially engaged right now:D"?? I guess you could say, "I am not alone" or "I am not lonely," but the feelings associated with such words do not run as deep as "alone" or "lonely." Why is that? Perhaps it's due to the fact that people tend to focus heavily on the negative aspects of their lives. They tend to stick out, be it bad vs good memories or bad vs good times. One bad event, and your whole day is ruined.
Honestly, sometimes it takes being alone to appreciate the positive aspects of our lives. We've all gotten a taste of this during quarantine. Going to school in person, being able to hang out with friends all the time, or being able to go to the movies, have all been things we've taken for granted.
At several points in our lives, we will inevitably find ourselves being alone. Being able to appreciate your own company is, thus, something that you should work on. That's not to say that you should purposely isolate yourself (please don't do that). On the occasion that you do wind up alone, however, instead of viscerally rejecting the situation, take a step back and let it be what it is.
The not-so-fun side to being alone
While solitude ≠ loneliness, they often come hand in hand, prancing around to taunt and remind you that a global pandemic is still raging on. Hence, why people often use them interchangeably, dismissing any distinction between the two.
This pandemic has taught even the most die-hard introverts and home-bodies that humans are indeed social beings and that touch-starvation is a serious issue.
Not being able to be with friends, not being able to be away from home, which may or may not be a happy place to you, and not being able to find the motivation to show up every day to school are all things that we've been through given our current positions.
Being alone can be very testing for anyone.
In extreme moments of loneliness, it can be very hard to get through the day. Just as you can get tired of being around so many people, you can definitely get tired of being by yourself.
Practicing the Art of Solitude
Yes, loneliness is not fun, but you don't always have to be lonely if you are alone. Be it in your struggles, your hardships, in school, or at home, you are never truly alone.
While we can't always do much with this knowledge, we can use it to direct us to see this state of solitude in a different light, reaping the benefits, since that's all that we can really do at the moment. In such efforts, you just might gain a new best friend: yourself :).