Being Lonely Versus Being Alone
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Being Lonely Versus Being Alone

I used to cherish my alone time, but now I fear it. What exactly does that mean?

Being Lonely Versus Being Alone

I've been thinking a lot lately about this Sartre quote: "If you are lonely when you are alone, you are in bad company." As soon as I got a driver's license at age 17, I borrowed my parents' cars to excess for the full privilege of being alone. I'd go to the mall, the movies, the park. I'd walk around the streets of New York, wandering through Central Park and the museums surrounding it and end the day with drinks by myself. I'd go to operas and ballets by myself. It wasn't that no one was around - I had lots of friends, a job, a boyfriend, a close-knit family that I lived with. But being alone was so fulfilling to me that I never missed a chance to have small adventures with me, just me.

If you fast-forward a couple of years to the present day, I've become a person who no longer cherishes these things. I think today very thoroughly about what Sarte has said and see valid truth in that I am in bad company. I know many people, too, who cannot fathom going to the diner or the movies by themselves. But what exactly makes the self "bad company"?

I can only write with the experiences I have, and through that narrow lense of self I see that with my psychological maladies, escapism is defined as anything that makes me less introspective. My tendency to think, once my favorite thing about myself, has become a realm of negativity. I see many people with the same problem, and I see them - just as I do - taking up hobbies that they cannot commit to. Each time I hit a depressive phase, I am unable to enjoy the things I've steadily loved - running, reading, practising music - and instead turn to the banalities of television and social media. When I am depressed, I become "bad company". Everything that I do is to hide or escape. How can I turn Heather back into good company?

When I am feeling a bit inspired (which doesn't happen much lately) I turn to my more introspective bits and try to remember what they have done for me. I have seen and experienced more than most people my age because of my tendency to think and overthink, but it seems that I've suffered more, too. But as Thich Nhat Hanh says, "no mud, no lotus". This phrase means that suffering is an inherent requirement for joy. It's difficult to master the art of transforming suffering when you must complete dozens of tasks every day to sustain a lifestyle of middle-class comforts. I believe that this is truly how I became "bad company". I became hooked on the idea that money will solve all of my problems, and that sleep will be the only thing to make me feel better. But today I woke up after a night of tears and still felt a heavy burden despite being restful. The first thing I did this morning was check my bank account, and I felt sad, thinking of how limited my day and my week would be because of a lack of money.

It takes time to rewire negative thinking. I'm doing the work every day, and it's getting a little bit easier to be alone and in solitude without feeling like I need to blow $100 or have a depressive panic attack. When I need to make difficult decisions, I make a pros/cons list. When I feel bored, I try and reach out to the people I love and care about or do an activity that shows love and care for myself. Today, I made paintings with pastels. I went to therapy. I listened to some of my favorite music from my teenage years. Even if these activities only filled four hours of my day, they count as four hours that I wasn't crying or sulking and labelling myself as "lonely".

Feeling alone is painful. It may be, however, a necessity in learning how to care for oneself and rebuild into emotional self-sufficiency. Without feelings of loneliness, I never could have achieved some of my proudest moments in life. I believe that with time and strategy, we can all be alone without being lonely.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.

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