Learning To Be Alone, Not LonelyOctober 3, 2020
It was a typical morning for me here in Colorado. I brewed my tea and made my way down to the park with Aria to spend the waking hours of the day reading Jonah Berger’s Invisible Influence: The Hidden Forces That Shape Behaviors. Since I picked it up in a lot of free books a few weeks back, I had been excited to open the pages and see what knowledge was to be uncovered since I have noticed how my behavior can change drastically.
I’m one who thrives off the presence of friends, family, and people in general. It’s as if I take in all the idle energy from around the room and throw it back out in a wild array of colors. Dancing wildly, it comes to my surprise that I’m able to make people smile, laugh, and realize that today is a beautiful day to be loved and to love. Or, I settle into a quiet people-watching overthinker who spends hours and days collecting mental notes, churning them over and over in a hope to gain a better understanding of the world around him thereby, hopefully, understanding himself.
In both of these states, I have noticed a craving to be different. I want to think different, rebel against the status-quo, and find a new way of doing things. I do this even if the classic way is a tried and true method with consistent results. this has led to some fun ideas and successful ventures, but it has also turned my back on things I love.
*I would love to think this comes from a striving to improve, but I have recently begun to think it’s a slightly more egotistical approach to leave my mark on the world, which I’m not sure I like 100%*
So when I once again turned the page and got right hooked, I lay in a state of confusion for days…
“Why would you want to be different from everyone else when everyone else is the family members and friends and others you care about? Wouldn’t it be better to share experiences than be alone?”
Since moving here to Colorado, I have spent many day’s alone. Yes I have Aria, who brings about many smiles and companionship.
But In terms of people, I have yet to meet any stable friends that live in a close enough proximity to see regularly. And that SUCKS.
There have been days where I have mentally fallen apart. Let me explain what this looks like…
It starts with a hope to do something in the day. It could be as simple as going out for a hike or down to the climbing gym. But a little voice in my head chimes in to say, “No, don’t do that. No one is there to do it with you so it will be boring, a waste of time.” Seemingly convinced, I fall down a rabbit hole of social media and YouTube to flood out that voice with other information. Other voices. A few hours later, I realize I’m not in control of what has been happening. So I get up full of energy to try and change my current state only to have the little voice chime in once again and stop me in my tracks repeating the cycle. A few days this has happened in such a vicious cycle, I never left my room and ended the day crying in the shower.
Other days, I have done the exact opposite. I wake up early, I pack some food and Aria and I go and get lost in the mountain wilderness. We explore taking in all the new sights and smells and for a day feel on top of the world. Away from phones, social media, and the daily realities of the world. I, as I can’t speak for Aria, start to find an inner peace in the time we are taking to rest in a hammock perched up with the aspens.
And yet I struggle to find this all to be more than just a mask of the pain that I feel inside as there is a constant voice whispering, “this would be much more enjoyable with others.” Which, in my thrive off people state is true! There are many things that I’m doing now that I would like to do with others. Watching a movie at the end of the day, hiking up a new mountain peak, walking around town on a phot walk. These are all activities that for me would be enhanced with other people around. This is not to take away from the peace and freedom you get from independent exploration, but rather it’s my desire to finally feel like I have some form of community again around me.
But there is a stipulation, it can’t just be any people, It has to be the right people.
Without these people, my community that I tapped into, I have been trying to get more comfortable being alone. Through some massive failures and small success I have begun to find out how to be alone and not just feel lonely.
The first thing I have done is create a frequency chart. A small piece of notebook paper with the names of people and a small note of how often I think I should contact them and a column indicating if I have contacted them. From the everyday people to those that are more monthly, this little piece of paper not only reminds me that there is a large community of people surrounding me at all times, thanks to mobile phones and social media, but that they are there to be talked to, and even though apart we can still build community together. Humans are tribal beings. And of of the most fundamental parts of being a member of the tribe is being informed. We do this through communication.
Secondly, I have tried to take anytime I am feeling strong emotions and express it, not withhold it. Whether this is in a photo, calling a friend, or sitting at the piano for 15 minutes, I’ve tried to get better at expressing myself. If you know me at all, you know very well how I can just eat my feelings only to have my purge with a close friend. Well, while out here, strong emotions have come about much more frequently and I have begun to realize I must deal with them on my own. Maybe it’s growing up, but If I can handle some of the burden myself, I realize I can then reach out when needed, and more importantly be in a better position to help when called upon.
Third, I have begun to embrace routine. In a conversation almost two years ago I was explaining to my friend Hannah how I love to just take each day for what it is. Seeing what comes up and where I get pulled. Following the wind. While she kindly said she admired it, she stated that for herself a routine is needed, yet she leaves the room for flexibility. At the time I just chalked this up as two different ways to approach life. Yet, as I have gone on, I find that her words and approach have come back to be something I embrace. I thought I was unique when I realized just the other day that a simple routine gets my day started, but with these open periods for novelty I can keep going. ( I can’t do the same thing each day or I will go insane.) But with some reflection I realized that I had a little bit of a friend’s wisdom finally starting to bloom. To that I am thankful.
Fourth, I have deliberately put myself in situations to be alone. At the local climbing gym there is a small restaurant/bar. They were having a showing of a movie followed by a small trivia night the other day and I really wanted to go. Yet, the voice came back. After almost just bypassing and going home, I resolved to go. When I sat down, I realized that everyone else there had a partner. A friend, a spouse, a small family everybody was surrounded by their community. I was alone. At first, this was not the best feeling. Yet as I settled, I found myself enjoying my pretzel and the movie. They were activities that I wanted to do and doing them brought me joy. Even when halfway through I started to wish to have a companion with me, I still found joy in the decision to go. Then at trivia night, I was swept up into a small group and we shared some laughs and the night became way better than what would’ve been if I had just gone home.
Lastly, I have learned to appreciate just sitting and being bored. It was a ted talk that helped throw some ideas out that I was able to learn from.
While Chris Bailey was talking about focus, he mentions the idea that we need to increase our capacity to be bored. By avoiding the constant rush of dopamine, the stimulation of never ending content, we can increase our capacity to focus on a singular topic. This for me has been just sitting with myself and seeing how long I can go without the phone, without the piano, without my camera. And what I have discovered is that this is the period where my brain gets the space to be creative. The space to come up with new ideas and process all of the above. A space to discover who I am. Which In my thinking, is one of the reasons that I have uncovered for moving. Not something blatantly obvious in the making of my choices to move, but found after the fact.
So all in all, why I have decided to move and be different? I guess to find myself? Or really, it’s to keep learning about myself. This is a new experience, and from these new experiences I have learned and will continue to learn about who I am as a person. I will continue to lean on the community I have created, expressing myself and my emotions, build a routine I love whilst leaving room for novelty, placing myself in situations to appreciate the activity for what it is, and give myself time to be bored. Each day after all is 24 hours to spend the way I choose. So when I wake up I know I may find myself feeling alone out here in the state of Colorado, but in no way am I alone.