Posts Tagged ‘solitude’

loner

This day 2 years ago, I woke up in Venice.

It was the last day of my trip to Europe.

(By the way, the view from my dorm’s window was spectacular)

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I made the trip largely on my own, bar for 3 weeks in Prato, Italy where I had a class and Paris where I was accompanied by 2 good friends.

But the rest of the trip, I was alone. And I have to say that I enjoyed the experience.

More often than not, I prefer to to associate or socialise with others. I guess that makes me a loner by a definition.

Being a loner feels wrong sometimes. Because humans are fundamentally social animals. We require interaction with other members of the species. It’s not even materialistic, as I believe our need of interaction is purely psychological. Social invisibility is frowned upon and often stigmatised.

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One very illustrative example will be eating out.

What it means to be a loner Perks of being a loner Things that are not so great Sometimes, it still happens when I step into a restaurant and signal a table for one. The waiter/waitress suddenly looks quite amused AND bemused. Who is this guy? Why is he dining alone? Has he no friends? What’s wrong with him? Well guess what. There’s nothing wrong with me. There are days when I just like to have dinner in silence, without the need for conversation. I can spend that time appreciating the food, thinking about what I am going to write next (like this one) or observing other patrons (which is fun. You should try it more often). It is the period of time when I deliberately refuse interaction with human beings other than whoever’s waiting my table. I am going so far as to claim that not having company at all is much, much better than having the wrong company. And I have had my fair share of wrong company, you can believe me. I need my pensive moment desperately, and that simply cannot be achieved in the presence of another person.

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Being a loner is fun, as you have the time to realise a lot of interesting things. During my brief stay in Prato, I used to go to my favourite gelateria (that’s “ice cream parlour” for the uninitiated) and had gelato alone. As it was winter in Europe at the time, there was frequent rain, which made it even better (having gelato when it’s cold outside is one of the best feelings we ever get to experience, I can assure you).

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Orange + Tiramisu, 2 scoops for 3 euros. Noiceeeeee!

Once, I saw a mother with a young child who came in during the downpour. The boy was around 7-8 and he looked very excited. He told his Mom something along the line of “Hey Mum, we were lucky that it rained. I was feeling a bit warm! Now we can have ice cream!” (that’s the gist, my Italian was rubbish back then and it is still rubbish now). He seemed to have genuinely liked the rain. Another time, a young lad came into the gelateria with a heavy, agitated look on his face. I overheard him mutter something about the damned rain.

That’s when I learned life is just like rain: it is what it is, but the choice of how to react is yours alone.

However, of course being a loner has its own drawbacks. In social situations that demand interpersonal interaction, I am extremely uncomfortable and often screw things up. I lack both the experience and the will to communicate with another person/other persons. I also miss out on many group activities, which indeed looked fun. Being too comfortable on one’s own does have that effect of self-isolation.

And of course, there is the occasional loneliness. I can’t help but feel it. I feel the need to talk to other people but since my options are severely limited, most of the times I just keep to my own. Only so naturally, negative thoughts creep upon the mind.

But overall though, I’d say being a loner has been good so far. I got the time to inspect myself as well as others. I don’t have to suffer terrible company during mealtimes. I don’t have to put up with people I don’t like.

Of course, the downsides are not absent.

But as long as I get to finish the dessert all by my self, I’ll A-OK.

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Nice tower the French got there

Gonna break convention and write about DELIBERATE PRACTICE next week. Watch out!


Every week, I take one word and write my thoughts on it. You can suggest a word in the comments below and it’ll appear on this blog some day, I promised!

On being alone

Posted: December 24, 2014 in On the self
Tags: , ,

Let me preface by saying that I both love and hate being alone. (And yes, it is possible to do so).

I love being alone. I can’t stress it enough. And I find it very difficult to be comfortable around someone who doesn’t appreciate being alone. Solitude, like darkness, can be very soothing. Although I rarely know peace, I find myself with the most composure when I am alone. Away from the noises and images that often prove to be too much. Modern society’s information flows can be quite overwhelming. When I lock myself from it, I can feel a fragment of calmness and even joy. But perhaps the greatest benefit of being alone is the quietness and detachment from the outside world. With this kind of near total tranquility, I am able to collect and organize my thoughts quite effectively. When I’m alone, I’m in the state of disconnection, thus I can shift my mental focus wholly onto my thoughts. And since my head is my most favourite playground, I often find myself immersed in solitude. There, I can tackle the most thought-provoking of questions, those that the material world seems not abstract enough to assist any kind of meaningful analysis. Only when I am with myself that I can concentrate on these subjects. And when I am not thinking, I can do things I enjoy doing in the absence of other people. Because how are you supposed to read a book with company? And by read, I mean to ingest every word, every sentence and ponder upon their meaning. One can only do such things in the comfort of utter silence, not being bothered by worldly distractions. 

All that being said, however, I also hate being alone. When it’s just me and my thoughts, it can get quite depressing. Especially when darker matters are being thought upon. Things like death, lost or pain, they demand utmost mental concentration, but it’s not the only price. One has to submerge himself in darkness to be able to scrutinize this matter to any satisfactory extent. The consequence would be negativity, depression and such. Intellectually, these adventures are very fruitful, but they exact a toll on my mind, sapping away my mental strength. So I’d rather not wander into these lands often, but when I do, it’s both an enriching and exhausting experience. Hence my severe dislike of being alone. More than that, a state of disconnection and detachment can also mean a state of disorientation. For I am not, in the moment, in contact with the physical world, a sense of being lost upon reconnection is expected. I have, more than once, been dazzled by reality. Because I took a pause when everything and everybody is moving forward, even more so quickly, it cannot be avoided. 

It sounds counter-intuitive, perhaps it is. But I think I have fallen in love with solitude and I have also grown to hate it. Somehow I feel I can’t live without it, but I can’t stand when I am within it. I guess I’ll just have to bear with it and try not to be alone so frequently.And because everything has two sides, so does being alone. One thing I know for certain: without solitude I couldn’t have organized my thoughts to write this (admittedly still messy) piece.

Merry Christmas though 🙂 

Language has created the word ‘loneliness’ to express the pain of being alone. And it has created the word ‘solitude’ to express the glory of being alone. – Paul Tillich

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