But I pine in solitude, solitude is my undoing… I am a traveller, a pedlar paying for lodging with a ballad; I am an indiscriminate, an easily pleased guest; often putting up in the best room in a four-poster; then lying in a barn on a haystack. I don’t mind the fleas and find no fault with silk either. I am very tolerant. I am not a moralist. I have too great a sense of the shortness of life and its temptations to rule red lines.– Virginia Woolf, The Waves
Throughout childhood, we are bombarded with messages which teach us that being alone is something to fear. That aloneness equals lonely. That isolation will only ever do harm, not good. At some point, I realised that this narrative we’ve been lead to believe isn’t true. Driven by fear of the unknown, we cling into the ideals and expectations of others – hoping that they become the anchor we are taught to find.
For as long as I can remember, I have only ever had the guarantee of my own company. To learn, to motivate, to explore. Knowing this, it is easy to fall into pitying such a person. Why has this become the case? Having the ability to explore the world on your own terms is not something to be pitied, it is an advantage. Especially in an age where we are constantly preoccupied with another’s thoughts and relative truths, the need for an untainted view becomes ever-present.
Without having time to be by yourself, to listen to your thoughts and make sense of them all – you would not have developed the perspective you have now. Gaining an insight into the world as it presents itself requires sacrifice and patience, skills which can only be honed if they are practiced often.
Each introspective period holds invaluable lessons, these lessons would have remained hidden if I spent every waking moment in the presence of another being. Amongst the clutter, silence paves a path towards oneself. Bringing clarity in a never-ending cycle of chaos, which continues to surrounds us. During these periods, the darkness may be too close for comfort, but once it leaves you will become lighter than you were before.
In solitude, we find more than an anchor. We rediscover what it means to be alive, understanding what is truly important in our lives. To prioritise making memories over collecting material objects, and meeting new people over keeping the company of those who no longer serve us. There is joy to be found in being alone, but it must be found. It cannot be felt in the moment; only realising what you have gained, months or even years later.
What does solitude mean to you? How would you like it to change? What would make you embrace these moments, when they arrive next?