I never felt the difference in being alone and being lonely until I moved to Boston, completely by myself. It was pretty apparent a few weeks in that I had never actually been alone, and probably very rarely felt lonely. A twin, in a sorority, bent on being career driven — I spent my life surrounded by others without actually letting may people in.
Alone and lonely feel different, act different, they take up different space in our lives. Loneliness causes people to do a lot of different things: Date the wrong person. Avoid staying home alone. Avoid going out. Most of the time, loneliness causes us to fill our time with things that do not serve us. We fill our spaces so we’re not forced to acknowledge our feelings.
Alone is the simple pleasure of being with one’s self. Sitting at a bar with a book. Staying home on a Friday night to listen to music. Alone could be the opposite of loneliness.
Recently, a friend sent me this article on how to be alone and in doing so, be happy with yourself and not rely on a soulmate to make you happy. Love, monogamy, the positive impact of being alone, and what that means for our relationships — the difference of loneliness and alone. “I want to be with someone else who also wants to be alone,” he stated.
I grow anxious around my friends who don’t believe in love. I grow equally anxious around my friends who believe that marriage is the only choice and having a family is the only true vision of happiness. The important part of life is to enjoy yourself — waiting for someone else to complete you will never make you complete. Love is great, but it’s at the greatest when we can appreciate ourselves, perhaps it can only exist when that happens. Being alone is great, but I believe to be vulnerable with our fellow human beings is the reason we’re alive.
I once read a quote that essentially said: your person should compliment you, not complete you. These simple words changed how I viewed life. Pop culture leads us to believe that someone should fill a piece of ourselves that is missing. As I’ve grown into an adult, I realize that I am a complete person and I enjoy myself. When I look for a partner, I do not look for a missing piece, but someone who can be alone and we make sense at a different level. When I form friendships, it’s with strong people who know who they are. I rarely identify with individuals who need another person.
I’ve felt lonely. I’ve filled every empty moment with friends to actively avoid my thoughts and feelings. While I rarely feel bad plugging extra time with bike rides, drinks, dinners, lunches— I always know I’m trying to not concentrate on parts of my life that need attention. I bake, mountains of sugary sweets so I focus on measuring flour instead of the pain in my heart. When I made the difficult decision to leave San Francisco, I signed up to run a half-marathon (even though I hate running) to try and turn my loneliness into a physical goal I needed to overcome. The unfortunate thing about loneliness is it rarely encourages us to do the one thing we should: focus on ourselves and what’s off in our lives. Through my loneliness however, I’ve discovered new parts about myself and learned from each experience.
Often, based off of expectations built by someone else, we have a preconceived notion of what should make us happy and what makes for a successful life in so many areas of our our existence. Money, relationships, careers — I think I’m just now starting to realize what’s right for everyone else is not right for me. I do not live a selfish life, but I refuse to settle for mediocrity. At the end of the day, even when I’m wrong, I love being me. It’s made all my relationships stronger.