I’m practiced at solitude. I say “practiced” because it has become a practice to me, though it started as my first major malfunction. Without going too deeply into complicated but significant part of my history, I’ll just say that my development was steeped in extreme solitude. Unhealthy amounts of solitude. Adapting to it has created an introverted disposition that can be a burden or an advantage, depending on my own relationship to it, and which coping tools I’m using (or not using). I learned quickly not to fear alone-ness, but to look forward to safety and restful freedom. Leave me alone in any space long enough and I’ll find a way to make myself comfortable: dim or color the lighting, rearrange the furniture, and set a vibe worthy of a Netflix-and-chill session I’d usually rather keep all to myself. My cat can hang.
I love being alone. I can get work done in whatever way is most comfortable and conducive to my own brain. I can self-medicate and do crafts, I can play with my costumes, I can make any mess I don’t mind cleaning up. Everything is right where I left it, even when I’m too medicated to remember where the fuck that is. There’s no one around but my cat to watch me roam from room to room looking for the damn thing and enjoying getting distracted every step of the way. I love hanging out with the people who give me life, but I will always get the most energy from recharging by myself. I can’t truly feel connected to anything unless I have time to be separate. My favorite part of having a really great time with someone is usually the moment I’m relaxing by myself and I think about what a great time we just had.
One of my favorite Lesbian writers, May Sarton, wrote some of the most relatable shit I’d ever laid eyes on when she said: “...Friends, even passionate love, are not my real life unless there is time alone in which to explore and to discover what is happening or what has happened.” - Journal of A Solitude, 1973
There is the other side of alone. Times when being alone can feel like a bad trip - when the intensity of existing with no other presence to dilute my thoughts is overwhelming. When there is so much space to spiral, too much time to bounce between sluggish despondency and manic upswings. I’ve found that I can take control of how I spend my time and energy while I’m alone, that I can curate what vibes I let in and which ones I cast protections from. This isn’t a prescriptive cure for loneliness or for rough mental health days, but it is a strategy I use to steer myself toward healthy independence rather than depressive isolation.
This skill of being independent of spirit comes in handy. When I want to do something spontaneously, I don’t get anxious that I need to find the right friend to go with me. I’m not afraid to take a 3000-mile leap into a new chapter of my life, and I’m so grateful to have the sense of self to take on new adventures. A great feeling is traveling alone, being on a mission, vape in pocket, headphones nestled in my earbuds, unattached and hurtling toward the next thing. It’s one of the most powerful feelings I know. When I think back on the most powerful times of my life, I find that solitude has usually played an important role in my power.
Many of my closest people are long distance, including my best friend since 7th grade who moved away in 8th grade. We’ve almost always been apart from each other, and it doesn’t stop us from being a part of each other (I know it’s corny, let me live). I know and love who I am, and the love I feel for myself is separate from the people whom I love, however influenced by them it might be. I think it allows me to love others more honestly. We all identify ourselves in part by the company we keep, but incorporating healthy connections and communities into our individual identities is different than unintentionally allowing ourselves to be defined by our friends or familial roles and obligations. Or worse: losing your sense of self entirely to a toxic partnership or group dynamic. Individuation is so fucking important.
Even when single and enjoying healthy social dynamics, community-minded folks who are often fantastic supporters of friends’ projects and goals sometimes neglect to check in on ourselves. What ideas, goals, and projects are you working on right now? What are you learning, lately? How’s the tone of your year? How are you empowered to steer that energy? Success is more often the result of a hundred little acts of growth, initiative, and gentle course correction, than it is any single monumental achievement. Do I sound like your Pap reading a self-help book yet? Cool.
Here’s some mood-setting music your Pap didn’t pick out. It’s a soundtrack for keeping your eyes on your own paper, because your own story is interesting enough! If it’s not, here’s some vibes for writing a way better sequel.
SOLYAMOROUS, a playlist.
ALSO check out:
How To Be Alone, a video piece by Andrea Dorfman, w/Poetry by Tanya Davis