They say that even when surrounded by people, you can feel alone. Perhaps even more so than when you are, physically, alone.
During my recent travels I have felt lonely. A lot. I have also thought about what it means to be lonely, how we become lonely, why we feel loneliness.
With travel, you have to accept a certain amount of loneliness. When I first arrived in Edinburgh, I was living in a hostel. For two weeks I flip-flopped between hyper-social and super-introvert. It’s like you have a certain amount of social energy, and when you are thrust into an extreme social environment like a hostel (especially when you’re travelling alone), it burns out quickly and you must retreat back into yourself, perhaps more so than you would normally, just to refuel. These are the hardest times when you’re travelling, because you see everyone around you socializing and having rad times, and you can’t muster one drop of the energy required to join them.
If you have been travelling on your own and have not experienced this, then I congratulate you. You are better at this than I.
Of course, when I packed up my life and moved blindly to Edinburgh, I expected to feel lonely until I settled in and built myself a new life. What I didn’t expect, however, was how long this loneliness would last, and how much a part of me it would become. Don’t get me wrong, I have always highly valued my ‘alone time’ – even when I lived with a dude, and especially with my myriad roommates over the years – but now it has taken on a different quality, or maybe I am just more critically aware of it.
I find that my feelings of loneliness are directly related to (or the same as) the presence of my own personal happiness in any single moment. If I have a productive day, for example, I am happier with myself. Even if I spend that day alone I do not necessarily feel lonely. The inverse is also true; when I do nothing, I feel less happy with myself and am more susceptible to loneliness – even if there are people around. This fact about me may have always been true, but I was not aware of it until recently. I love learning stuff about yourself, you feel so much more in tune with what you need!
Loneliness, or aloneness, can sometimes be exactly what I want. My favourite example of this was recently, when I went with my brother to the Muse concert in the Stade de France, Paris. The absolute best moment was during Madness; I closed my eyes and through some kind of magic, the thousands of people in the supermassive stadium disappeared, and it was just me and Muse and the music. It was glorious. Having my own isolated experience, and then looking over to lil’bro with tears of his own emotional reaction to this song, well, it was a good feeling. A shared loneliness.
Now that I’m back at home for the time being, I was hoping that my new ever-present quality of loneliness would subside. It has to a degree, but the only time it disappeared almost completely was when my best friend was visiting for a few days last week. Since I was around both my family and a friend, I felt more fulfilled than just with one or the other. I still think, however, that it is with myself that I need to feel content to eradicate loneliness altogether. I guess it’s time to start figuring out what I want out of life and what I need to do to achieve it.
In the meantime, I got a cat.