Today I was thinking about the difference between solitude and loneliness. It seems to me, and this is just my own perception as an introvert, that a lot of us have a hard time spending time by ourselves because our society is so hyper-connected. I love spending time with people, but I am also an empath, and tend to feel very drained when I don’t take time to just sit in solitude and just create. Knit, play music, read, write, watch a movie. I didn’t even really want to get on my phone today because I just wanted to savor the silence while working. The monotony of tasks can be very therapeutic in a way, and this silence and monotony not only helped me get work done, but also it helped spark so many creative ideas in my head.
I wanted to learn more about how people differentiated between solitude and loneliness. I watched a TED Talk about the epidemic of loneliness, and while I thought the speaker made very good points about how people are lonelier today even with all this social media and cell phones that are supposed to keep us connected, I also thought, Well, what if the solution isn’t always to just go out and meet more people to curb loneliness, but just to embrace the times when we are by ourselves instead of viewing it as loneliness? I understand if someone needs to use social media for long distance or international long distance relationships and friendships and relationships with family, but sometimes if you don’t need social media or texting it’s okay to call people on the phone. It’s okay to sometimes stop by for a visit. I am guilty of texting just as much as anyone else, but I’m starting to get extremely exhausted by the idea of texting. It just feels so impersonal, and when I go see someone in person instead I feel better than if I just spoke with them through an emotionless text. I’m trying to do less texting, and while I may slip up, I’ve noticed I feel better when I haven’t tried to please people and answer every single text the minute it comes in. I know it’s rude to not answer texts right away, but I would rather wait to answer someone instead of answer in a snappy “Don’t bother me, what do you want?” kind of way, because I have done this before and it’s frankly not fun.
I think there’s a lot of people who don’t mind spending time alone, and I’m one of those people. I have always loved carving out time to myself, and even though I have connected with so many people I find I can be calmer and more rational when I take time to just get away from the busy chatter and write some freelance poetry or even just stare off into space and daydream. Daydreaming is beautiful; I think we should all daydream more, but I know it’s a luxury and many people are too busy too take time to daydream. But that’s why I love being in solitude a lot; I know too much solitude can lead to loneliness, but it really depends on how you see it. A lot of times we think if someone is sitting alone then they are lonely; as an anxious person in college, I tried to sit with everyone I saw who was sitting by themselves without understanding that sometimes, people just want to be by themselves. Then again, I have approached random folks to sit with them when they are by themselves and it ended up being a good thing because I became friends with a few of those individuals simply because I went up and said hello. So it’s really not super clear-cut whether people are lonely or cool with being by themselves. Honestly, in retrospect, I wish I was more comfortable being alone. I assumed that wanting solitude was bad just because I saw everyone socializing all the time my first year, but after a few years I realized that it’s okay to dance, dream, read, eat, sleep, knit, create, live alone sometimes so that when you do hang out with people, you get to appreciate their time more because you have learned to appreciate yours. In solitude, I come to respect myself and learn more about what I want out of life. In the dark depths of depression, in the hell that is loneliness, I couldn’t be by myself. It’s why I often had my headphones in because I couldn’t bear to be alone with my thoughts. I felt that, even if the people around me loved me dearly, I felt somehow empty, unloved, that I didn’t belong. It wasn’t other people; it was my own mind telling me that I didn’t belong, that no one cared about me, that I should just be alone and miserable. In solitude, I never had to run away from myself. I returned to my inner child, my muse, the one who always inspires me to keep going even in the darkest of times. I could confront my inner demons and express them through my personal creation of art.
Overcoming this deep horrendous battle with depression really made me understand that solitude allows me to be the best creative that I can. Some of the best ideas were created in solitude, not loneliness. I tend to be creative when I’m not on my phone all the time. Even though I don’t have Facebook anymore, I really don’t care, because being on Facebook and missing all my friends was just making me lonely. Now I write in a gratitude journal how appreciative I am during those moments of solitude when I get to curl up in a chair with a nice up of tea and just enjoy a good book .I don’t feel guilty or ashamed anymore because I know that this solitude will probably not come back for a while, so I try to make the most of each small moment while I can. I think we could all benefit from solitude; eventually, at some point in your life, you need to be comfortable with your own thoughts. It’s easier said than done, but when the people in your life pass away or leave in some other way, feeling that grief is a nightmare and most times you want to just curl up in fetal position and no longer exist. But solitude allows one to reflect, to just accept that tears are normal, and that in this moment of loss, you have the ability to still create, and create even more in memory of this person’s presence. You get to use solitude to reflect, to return to yourself, and ultimately, to live your best life.
Here is just one of the TED Talks I saw about embracing solitude: