To be alone, or to be lonely. There’s power in it… somewhere.
The phenomenon of the long weekend gives me a feeling of pure bliss… but once those few days are over, I realise it shouldn’t be normal to feel this much excitement at the thought of having a couple of days off work. So I end the weekend angry as hell. Slaving away shouldn’t be the norm – I don’t want this to be my life, because living for the weekend is one of the things that reels my depression back in every time it feels like running away from me. Not so fast, we have work tomorrow! But, alas. I spent the Bank Holiday weekend on such a high, that being alone and back in reality right now just consists of me trying to pick up the pieces of myself after going splat on the floor. To be dropped from such a height is soul-shattering, and resuming normality is a long, painful process.
I’m one of the many people who has always loved my own company. The libraries, the lone cinema trips, the late nights with movies and a blank word document, the early morning sunrises with coffee shops and books. I’m always ecstatic at the prospect of having a few days to collect myself and bring myself back up to date with my life; maybe it’s the anxiety, but I need time to reconvene with my thoughts. I need to nurse my mind and cleanse my energy, to pluck off the remnants of the work-week and start brand new. ‘I’d get bored if I didn’t have work’ doesn’t apply to me, and I think you’re either attention-seeking, boring, or lacking in substance if you say such things. Probably all three. I have things to do, hobbies to engage in, plans to kickstart; so if you were to offer me three weeks off work, fully paid, I’m snapping it up without complaint because there is so much to be done. Everybody who complained about being bored on furlough deserves a kick in the face, I hate you all. I could check myself into a hotel for weeks on end and come out a much better person than I was before I went in. Either that or dead. Tomayto, tomahto.
But that love for solitude has since been co-partnered with an appreciation for a support system; something that can only truly be felt once you’ve grown through bitter, self-inflicted (or otherwise) loneliness. I love my own company so much that finding people who make me want to share myself with them is a beautiful, rare thing. In simple terms, the true value (or appreciation) of companionship and friendship is only found after you have cemented your ability to live life alone. Weird how that works.
I know there are a lot of people who will disagree with me when I say that solitude… isn’t that big of a deal. Choosing to remain alone and refusing help doesn’t make you powerful or a force to be reckoned with, and I have no regrets in saying that the people who vehemently disagree with this are trying to prove something. I believe a period of solitude is necessary for everyone, and it does make you stronger than who you were before it, but it doesn’t make you any stronger or better than someone else. Solitude helps you find out who you are as an individual as opposed to who you are in relation to others; it’s important for soul-searching and figuring out what you want in life, what your values are when they’re not influenced by anyone else. But I know that a lot of people who convince themselves they’ve chosen solitude don’t actually do so for those reasons, as found in the constant announcements of their refusal to ‘settle’. For friends, for a partner. Solitude should have nothing to do with what you look for in a partner, with the type of friends you want to keep around. It’s not an alternative to companionship, it’s not something you choose whilst you’re waiting for people who reach your standards. Solitude should not have you thinking about who you are in relation to other people, especially not how it makes you better or stronger without them. That’s when it becomes a facade. Solitude should be concerned with one thing and one thing only: you.
A lot of the recycled tweets I see are some variant of “a person who is okay with being alone is a powerful person” or “I’d rather stay alone if it protects my peace”.
I can’t help but laugh at how ironic it is that these tweets always garner tens, hundreds, even thousands of likes. You find comfort in knowing that there are other people in the same boat as you, other people who are alone and strong and powerful, you find comfort in knowing… that you’re not alone. You want everyone to know that you’re okay by yourself and that makes you a good contender for a partner or a friendship whilst providing you with some protection from being fucked over because ‘I’m warning you. I’m good by myself. Hear that? I’m strong alone so you can’t hurt me. Make sure you know that. I’m good.’
And that declaration that solitude is your own choice is precisely why you try to convince the world that you’re powerful, that people who are alone possess a kind of unique strength. Solitude, when done right, should not have you wanting to tell the world about how powerful it makes you. Do whatever you must to make yourself feel better, but never lie to yourself; it’s okay to not want to be alone. There’s no weakness in choosing friendships and relationships, there’s no weakness in accepting help; life is all about how we interact with other people. It’s about friendships and family, it’s about love. It’s about having people in your life who make you feel happy and safe, people who make life worth living. There’s no weakness in that. Some of the strongest people have coursed through life on their own, survived the hardest calamities, and still feel stronger with people they love by their side, with a partner, with friends who support them. Your favourite brooding assassins and comic-book loners need other people, too.
Peace is not only found in solitude. If you’re happy within yourself, you know exactly what type of people complement your values, you know exactly what type of people have a secure place in the environment you’ve created for yourself. You know exactly what type of people make your garden grow and show you who you are.
I learnt to find comfort in solitude and it’s only very recently that I learnt that this solitude has brought only the very best people into my life. Enjoying time alone means I’ve built a strong foundation for myself; I know what my values are and they are uncompromising. My time is so important that I only give my energy to those who have a permanent position in my life, those who I love fiercely; the dead weight has been cut off to leave only the cream of the crop, and my life consists only of people who mean the world to me. Their existence makes my life infinitely better, but my lonely past means I don’t start crying when they don’t reply in thirty minutes. It means I can have strong friendships that survive when we go weeks without messaging. It means I can nurture a love that has grown out of shared fundamental values.
Solitude is necessary for growth.
It is the most important part of the journey, but never the end-game.