Solitude and the 21st Century Need for Constant Togetherness

Google defines “Solitude” as:

sol·i·tude
ˈsäləˌt(y)o͞od/
noun
  1. the state or situation of being alone.
    “she savored her few hours of freedom and solitude”
    synonyms: loneliness, solitariness, isolation, seclusion, sequestration, withdrawal,privacy, peace

    “she savored her solitude”

     

What I find particularly interesting about this definition is the examples. “She savored her solitude”, “she savored her few hours of freedom and solitude”. What does that say for the act of experiencing solitude? It says, to me, that it is pleasurable. That solitude, in and of itself, is something one wishes for, dreams of, and strives to obtain. Yet, when one actually enjoys solitude, many can be conflicted by their enjoyment of such a state. It serves to reason, doesn’t it, that everyone who is healthy, of strong mind and character, would not choose to be alone, does it not? Perhaps the reverse is far more truth than many would choose to accept.

What am I going on about? Allow me to expound with a story, of sorts. The true variety, specifically, auto-biographical in nature. It all began five years ago with a single choice. A choice that changed everything I ever knew, twisted it upon its often ugly head, and splatted it back into a new place, that was full of mystery, and seriously lacking in solitude.

In mid 2009, I fell in love. (Cue the “awws”.) Within 4 months of said courtship, I packed my life and moved across the pond to lovely Bedfordshire,  just north of London, to be with my love. By the New Year, my heart was broken, and I left my love. – If you paid attention to that timeline, my life changed forever within about 6 months time. Love does imbue madness in people, and I fell hard, fast, and mad-ly.

I didn’t leave England straight away, but rather, moved northward and relied on good friends to mooch a bed from until my visa ended. I had hopes of pursuing work permissions still with a few methods of attaining such results; alas, I was unqualified for even my most certain of methods. It appeared I was meant to stay state-side, much to my chagrin.

This prompted the longest ever string of unemployment I’ve experienced and it was near a year for me to find a full-time gig. In 2010, the US was in full recession, and jobs were very hard to come by. Until then, I worked odd jobs, painted houses, wallpapered interiors, even returned to doing nails in a salon – anything I could do to make some coin. All the while, I stayed with my brother and his family. A kindness much appreciated, and this arrangement allowed me to spend loads of time with nieces, which I will cherish forever, despite their familiar sarkiness with their beloved Auntie!

Once proper work was attained, I set a goal to move out and be back on my own, and to seek some solitude, which I so very much desired, and needed. Repairing not only a broken heart, but a broken life, needed time – specifically, peaceful time. Time away from the every day to let emotions find their ugly path outward from my twisted insides, that were threatening to revolt on the outsides that held them in. But, as it was, five years later, it is here I remained. At first, it was a request, but now, it’s patiently awaiting the next phase of my life to begin. A new job or a new business? (Currently under determination).

My yearning for solitude is strong and deep. I long to spend time on my own, and have even taken overnights in hotels to get some time away. Alas, nothing is as deliciously peaceful as one’s own bed, and a quiet home, comfortable, safe, and wonderfully peaceful. I’ve enjoyed my solitude since I was a young child. I would often go off into a corner nook somewhere and find a space to be on my own, with my thoughts, dreams, and everything in between.

Before my excursion to a new land, I spent most of my time alone. I enjoy being with myself, left to think, write, paint, etc. Friends often found this challenging to understand. They thought I removed myself from socializing and was hiding. Certainly, there have been many a time where I have not been interested in being social at all. In fact, I don’t often like being social with people I do not know. I do love to spend time with a friend, but typically prefer one friend at a time, or a small group. Yet, I have had many friends throughout my life that enjoy being social in abundance and must have plans at a constant. I am not like that, nor have I ever been. In fact, if I’m too busy for too long, I feel at a loss – mostly a loss of the solitude I desperately need to live and be happy.

To truly understand the confusion people feel when I choose solitude over dining out or a get together of sorts, they tend to believe I’m an extroverted personality, which could not be farther from the truth! I’m deeply introverted and don’t like social events where I don’t know people. I’m very good at enjoying myself when I feel comfortable, and not so much when I’m thrust into social situations otherwise, hence the extrovert/introvert confusion.

With that, it is very important to note, that being an introvert does not in any way imply that I am anti-social. Choosing to not be social because you have no need to be social is far from being anti-social. In fact, it is this very distinction that came up in “How to Be Alone: An Antidote to One of the Central Anxieties and Greatest Paradoxes of Our Time” by Maria Popova, the mind behind Brain Pickings.

Popova’s article captured me with her leading quote, by author Sara Maitland from “How to be Alone“, “We live in a society which sees high self-esteem as a proof of well-being, but we do not want to be intimate with this admirable and desirable person.” Indeed, this is a sign of our times, isn’t it? The constant need for social media connectivity, chatting with friends on IM or Facetime, getting together for meals and constant events being planned. – None of these things are bad things, and I do many of them myself; however, the distinction is frequency. Because I choose to do them less, the insinuation is that I am anti-social; alas, what it really means, is I don’t need to be connected 24/7, but, I do enjoy using technology and tools this modern century has provided.

My quest for solitude, at this current juncture of my life, requires again finding corner nooks to dwell within a house full of people and children. Alas, it took nearly 5 years to figure out how to find solitude amidst chaos, and it still often evades me, but I do know how to get what I need more than previously. I still long for my quiet space, not needing to close doors, wandering around my space, thinking, pondering, creating and tinkering. Soon, I shall have it, but until then, let it be known, that now and always, I simply relish in solitude, which does not make me anti-social, it makes me comfortable in my own skin and being with myself, whom I rather like.

 

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