When I lived in New York and worked in media, there was rarely an evening when I wasn’t at some party or social gathering, drink in hand, meticulously crafted outfit designed to solicit attention.
I was young – in my late teens and early twenties and I wanted to be a part of the group of cool kids I had felt excluded by in my earlier school years. It felt exciting and validating to be included in a world of beautiful people and velvet ropes. For three years I cared about little else than going out, meeting people, being seen. But this was not really me; it was as if I was playing a part I thought I was supposed to play. I had to drink in order to feign enjoyment in these settings. So few memories stand out from these years as blissful or enriching.
My natural tendency has always been to seek solitude. One of my earliest memories dates back to when I was six, when during school recess I would look for a place to hide myself away and sit while other kids ran around and played hopscotch. In my own house growing up, I used to hide under the bed and stash away stuffed animals – it was there I felt most comfortable. When my parents sent me to a summer camp, I abstained from the activities to sit on a rock ledge overlooking the Pocono Mountains and read a book by myself.
To me, other children were uninteresting. Their immaturity and crude behavior left me uninspired. I preferred the company of adults. This has not changed much in the intervening decades; I still find it difficult to relate to most people except in an intimate one on one dialogue. What has changed is that I no longer feel guilty about it, as if there is something wrong with me. Rather than force something which doesn’t feel natural or comfortable, I celebrate my aloneness.
I see groups of friends on Facebook, smiling together in swimsuits at some beach house and know that will never be me. I’m not a team player and my identity feels lost in a crowd. I wonder to myself whether those smiles are genuine. Whether those people are truly happy or whether they’re pretending because if they can’t be happy with a group of friends in a beach house, how can they be happy?
People are afraid of solitude. They’re afraid of their own mind because they can’t control their thoughts. So they seek to drown them out with alcohol and company. But there is another possibility – the possibility to become a meditator and be at peace.
Having the space to be truly alone and independent is the greatest luxury of which so few will ever taste. I live alone, I work from home, and I am single, all by choice. I am in total control of my life and surroundings with no one to impose their will upon me. It is in this expansiveness that I delve deeply into myself. It is within this solitude that I find peace and the malleability to continue changing and growing.
So few people understand this. My parents ask me if I am lonely. I am not. I enjoy immensely my own company. The man who knows and loves himself is never really lonely – that would signify that he is not enough on his own, that he feels some sort of lack.
If you have a desire to seek your own company, there is nothing to be ashamed of. Rejoice – you are looking in the right direction if you are looking inwards. There you can find your own garden of joy, your own answers. There within solitude lies the secrets to existence.