Wednesday, 19 December 2012

On loneliness

When I am deep absorbed in my thoughts I often come to a realisation that life, my life, is indeed very lonely. This is not a bad thing per se, at least for me, because I think loneliness, to a certain extent, is a part of life. Of course in this life we preferable share our lives with each other, because, you know, the presence of other people in our lives sort of make this life more real, in the sense that if you see a comet in the sky, you can turn to each other and say: did that just happen? Did you see that? And then you get a nod, or a yes, or their variants, and that kind of affirmation makes things in this life, seemingly real, even when they are not.

Yet I think given the complexities inherent in human emotions, it is somewhat natural to feel lonely because there are so many things that we just cannot share with other people, no matter what we try. This is particularly true in so many situations. One that most people often don't realise is how lonely we actually are in our loves for our significant others. It is almost guaranteed that there is no one in this planet who love them the way we do. What other people get to see is the end result, the happiness, the contentment with life. They often do not get to see the hard work involved in loving this one person and the hard work of that person in loving you. Heck, even often you don't get to see that, although you get to feel the love. It does not make it less real, but it is a lonely journey because you are alone in loving him/her. It is not a bad thing, in fact, it is a good thing, because it would be just weird if there is another being in this planet who love them exactly like you love them.

Another lonely experience I had was during doctorate years. Boy oh boy, now that was one lonely journey. If you are not someone who is comfortable being entertained by your thoughts at the start of the journey, by the end of it, you would be. I personally feel that part of the reason as to why a doctorate is done as an individual research project is so that you can be comfortable with being lonely, you can be comfortable defending your ideas, especially when everyone else seems to be unconvinced by what you propose, and that you can be comfortable being original, especially when no one else seems to share your views. I mean, really, this is one experience that forced me not to blend in (not that I was someone who blended in to begin with; why be a part of the masses when you can stand out?).

I am not alone in this line of thinking - the line that says that loneliness is a part of life - albeit we come to this conclusion for different reasons. But the one thing that makes me unable to stop thinking about this is this: how did loneliness become the "bad guy", the one that is described as unpleasant, empty and isolated. The one that is described as lacking in quality interactions that are hard to pin down.

Back in high school, we had this "group" of people that we sit with every lunch time. I am not sure how this comes about, but it just so happened that we gravitated towards the same people over and over again every lunch time, and eventually, we made plans to hang out over the weekend, and we stressed together in the library during our free period. I mean, it makes sense, right, totally, because at that age, who wants to be alone? Being alone was like being lonely. And it was somewhat, unheard of, it is like, why does she not want to sit with anyone. It was almost like a crime. And the teachers would automatically assume that there was something wrong with you just because you want to be alone.

It is not just in school, it is also the same deal when I was living at home - it is like, I don't know, I live with people who loved to have a confrontation at the moment that it was convenient with them without having regard to my preference (curse of being the youngest kid), the kind of confrontation that required them to bang against your door and forced their way into your room kind of thing, to which I shouted "GET OUT" and of course, they didn't and so I ended up being the one who not only had to get out of my own room, but also the house altogether just so that I could be alone for a moment in time. This is one of the better outcomes for me, and my preferred outcome too, given the situation, but you get the idea. I have never felt better about life ever since I started living alone. There is something so peaceful about coming home from a long day at work to an empty apartment and spending the evening alone.

I get that a lot of people are not comfortable with being alone, because they equate that to being lonely. Heck, I even personally know people who would not be seen eating alone at restaurants. Really, what's the big deal? I have eaten alone at restaurants many times, bring a book or a magazine or catch up with your inbox when you are waiting for your food.

Elizabeth Gilbert wrote in Eat Pray Love the following sentence that I find incredibly powerful and incredibly true for every human being, whether they are undergoing drastic changes in their lives, like the divorce she was going through, or just living life in general. She said, “When I get lonely these days, I think: So BE lonely, Liz. Learn your way around loneliness. Make a map of it. Sit with it, for once in your life. Welcome to the human experience. But never again use another person's body or emotions as a scratching post for your own unfulfilled yearnings.”

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