“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.
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.
“Life oscillates like a pendulum, back and forth between pain and boredom.” Arthur Schopenhauer, German Philosopher
As a millennial, one of the most annoying feelings I have every day is working as a casual staff while working on my self-funded PhD. I am constantly in fear that I would not be able to support my own living (I am barely now. I am eating into my savings every month…). The feeling that your qualifications and experience does not match the job market, the feeling that you can never have savings to purchase a house, the feeling that you can never be ‘successful’. These are all thoughts that haunt me every day. When I read Schopenhauer’s writing, it got me thinking – whether our lives actually just oscillates between pain and boredom. NO. I do not believe that’s the life I should be living through. I am pretty optimistic about my life (I guess)!
Through the journey of working, studying and job-hunting, I still find myself optimistic that, ONE DAY, I will be able to live a life I want to live, it’s just the matter of time. I have always been grateful that life gave me many choices and paths to choose. I would not believe that life has been giving me all these positives for nothing. Before I got anything satisfying, I should be patient and persistent.
The most important lesson from Schopenhauer is that life is harsh regardless of who you are, but it is your choice to live in a pessimistic or an optimistic life. I chose to be optimistic. How about you?
“Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for.” – Epicurus, Greek Philosopher
In many inspirational quotes, they often suggest: “live in the present.” But how do we focus on the present? I am a person with lots of “what’s next”. I love to think ahead. I love the fact that I am “controlling” my life. While having my dinner, I will be thinking what to do after dinner. Before I go to bed, I will be thinking what’s for breakfast. While doing my bachelor degree, I will be thinking what internship should I look for this summer? What jobs will be opened if I do this and do that? I am thinking about “what’s next” all the time. It has even came to a point where my parents shouted to me: “STOP ASKING ME WHAT’S NEXT! I DON’T KNOW YET!” That was shocking to me, as I always wanted to present myself as an independent son who has his life planned out as far as possible. So that they do not have to worried about me.
Lately, while working on my PhD, I often think about what kind of careers I want to get upon completion. Due to my obsessive thinking on “what’s next”, I have been thinking of what part time jobs I should be doing now to get to those career goals in the future. This time when I asked my parents for suggestions, they told me: “In life, you can never plan every single detail of it. Just like how I never expected myself in this career position right now. You just have to live your life, work hard and be patient.” This rang a bell inside me. Firstly, let’s not think about “what’s next”, because when you are thinking about “what’s next”, you will miss the beautiful life you are having right now. You will be constantly looking for gratification and never be satisfied with what you have right now. I have been taught to be grateful about what I have right now (which I do all the time), but sometimes, I tend to forget this feeling, and got driven away in pursuing something so far away. Thank you for this quote and my parents for bringing me back.
After this short reflection, it’s time to focus on the present and enjoy my sleep before work comes haunting me tomorrow! (Gosh, I just thought about “what’s next” again!)
To be honest, I did not expect myself to ever create a blog. I have never see myself a person who likes to write. I discovered my interest in writing since I started my PhD studies. I feel like there are lots of thoughts everyday that can be translated to some sort of writing. But most importantly, and rather strangely, I wanted to look back at my blogpost in 10 years time and see how much have I changed as a person.
Just like any other young adult out there, I have opinions on issues happening around me. However, it’s nothing political. I chose not to be too involved. Even though, it’s highly impossible, I would still try to avoid politically sensitive topics here.
Just a little bit about myself. I am (kind of) in my second year of PhD studies. My focus is on the societal factors that affect mental health of parents of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).
The reason for this topic is because I have seen so much injustice stories while working as an early childhood teacher/therapist/trainer for children with ASD. Let’s put it another way, things can be done better. Things can always be done better but it’s whether we are open to changes and our ability to adapt to changes. I hope to be the change that people needs. I hope everything could turn out right in the future.
Ever since I started this topic, I was directed to read The Social Theories, which is a field that I am entirely new to. More stories about this next time!