Loneliness? Solitude?

“Our language has wisely sensed the two sides of being alone. It has created the word loneliness to express the pain of being alone. And it has created the word solitude to express the glory of being alone.” – Paul Tillich, Theologian.

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Back in High school, I often say to others that “I hate being alone”/ “being alone is not my thing”/ “I need to talk to people!” To a certain extent, I find myself hungry for attention. I needed to know my value within my social environment. To be honest, I never really understood (nor did I ever wanted to understand) the joy of being alone. However, as I grow other, I find myself spending more time alone than ever.

There was a story back in mid-2015 when I still worked at a fabulous Mediterranean restaurant, my friend came to visit me while I am working once. He came in and dine alone after a long working day. I still remember I questioned “how do you even dine alone. I can’t do that unless it’s lunch time. Otherwise, I rather stay home and not be seen.” I even teased him for dining alone. But he told me how dining alone allows you to have personal time to slow down and think, to digest what has happened throughout the day. Although I laughed at him back then, I now understand what he meant.

As my PhD progresses, there are a lot of situations where I need to sit down and think without distractions. It’s only then I realise the importance of celebrating solitude. With constant social interaction, your brain does not slow down to think through issues happening around you, instead, you will be focusing on facilitating an interaction with a companion. Also, I start to realise that people don’t care about what I am doing/thinking when I am alone. It is okay to be alone. It does not mean that I am a loner. Choosing to be alone is different to feeling lonely. Nowadays, I am not afraid of dining alone outside (I still kind of do, but I have improved). I enjoy the time to think through issues around me. Most importantly, through being alone, I can be more ‘mindful’ and turn the focus to myself. I think I have been ignoring my own experience most of the time. It is now the time to switch the spotlight to myself, love myself more and celebrate the joy of solitude.

“Alone time is when I distance myself from the voices of the world so I can hear my own” – Oprah.

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