Loneliness, solitude, being alone — and all of these words that seem to make a very daunting sound to one’s ears. Like most people, I used to be uncomfortable with them as well, for I had been so very close to them during the major part of my teenage years and even childhood. To put into words the feelings that loneliness conveys remains a heart-rending experience. It was observing the groups of friends merrily walking down the streets, craving for a hand to hold, a soul to open up to, a constant sense of not belonging burning my spirit. In middle school, I often felt oppressed by the words people used to utter about me as if my crippling shyness was a curse on me. And yet, contrary to popular belief, the only way to break free from the ties of loneliness was to finally accept it as it was.
Whilst it would be easy to think that accepting it merely consisted of coming to terms with the fact of being alone most of the time, it is indeed more than that. It meant recognizing that society was telling us a lie. The lie that we need to remain accompanied at all times, whether that is by a human presence or a non-living thing. If we shall take the bus alone, then a voice in our ears should echo through the great inventions of high technology, for otherwise, our journey would be a lifeless-like, sunless one. It is as if we needed something — anything — to make us feel whole, reminding us of our human perception in order to be fully aware of our existence.
Society keeps on telling us that it is unconformist to dine by yourself in a restaurant — even more so if you are a woman. It prompts us to bring someone with us wherever we go, the same way that social media encourages us to stay constantly connected with people, be them mere acquaintances or close friends. In fact, if you happen to do any activity that tends to be broadly labelled as ‘social’, such as eating out, you would most likely be prone to stares and the popular culture ‘awkward/weirdo’ designation. And most importantly, we shall definitely seek to find ‘The One’ through whichever alternatives possibles in order not to die alone — supposedly a synonym for old, sad and greedy.
In high school, I suffered acutely from being so much isolated. Other than being shamed for not having friends, I felt like I was wasting a huge amount of time by staying at home almost every single weekend. I was missing out on all sorts of things, on my youth, on life. I sometimes heard of interesting events that were happening near me, and there were plenty of experiences I wanted to have — such as the most random cinema rendezvous, shopping mornings, afternoons in the park or evenings in bars. Yet, I always restricted myself merely because I had no company to rely on. I couldn’t do all these things on my own. I was scared to be caught writing by myself in a cozy café, or to take photographs in public. And if you’d like to know a secret, I’ll confess that I was once so embarrassed to have lunch sat alone in the university hall that I ate in five minutes in hidden the restroom. How shameful would be it if anyone saw me by myself out in the streets!
Eventually, someday I did realize that if I could never make any friends, then I’d have to start living my life anyway — not for the sake of anyone’s stares upon me but for my own self. The greatest of epiphanies came with a distressing experience and the understanding that life would happen to me no matter what, but I could choose by which rules to play. I took the bravest decision I could and left to go live abroad on my own. I discovered myself. Over time, I learnt not to bother about a stranger’s most far-fetched opinion on me. I went shopping, reading in parks, on hours-long strolls around the city, all by myself. Finally, I accepted to be alone. As time went by, I eventually learnt how to socialize (which was still a crucial point for me) and made friends. I made it to going to bars on my own and meeting new people, talking to strangers, taking buses, trains and boarding flights all by myself.
I survived on my own. I am surviving. By spending so much time alone, one learns how to navigate through life without seeking anyone’s company. You are fine by yourself, as long as you know who you are and open your eyes to the world. All you need to feel whole is to know your passions, know what your heart pounds for, know the quirks that make you you, and be aware of that no one’s look upon you matter more than your own. So go travel solo. Go try that new restaurant in town that none of your friends seems to be interested in. Go to that arts venue that no one in your circle seems eager to attend. Do as many activities as you would with your close ones, for, in the end, you will learn to accept yourself for who you truly, genuinely are and your beauty will radiate into the world. You will lose a considerable part of your self-consciousness and will not care about anyone’s judgment anymore. Perhaps you’ll be alone, but you won’t be lonely. Shamelessly you. Yourself, you will just be. And this is how you will be free.