“Loneliness as a situation can be corrected, but as a state of mind it is an incurable illness.” -Vladimir Nobokov
Ever since I was a child, I’ve always enjoyed reading. It was my way of escaping the lonely isolation of my youth. Sure there were perks to being an only child, but the indescribable loneliness can sometimes be consuming. At times I felt as though the emptiness of my environment was merely a reflection of the hollowness inside. At first I read to distract myself from my situation and to appease my mother from worrying about me. As long as I looked like I was enjoying what I was doing, it seemed like everything was A-okay, that I didn’t mind her absence in my life. I couldn’t blame her, she did the best she could to provide a good future for me, and for that I am forever grateful. So fake it until you make it, it went. Fortunately enough, I actually fell in love with reading. Literature provided a comforting sense of security. I read stories I could relate to, I somehow felt like I wasn’t a lone blip in the universe. Reading felt like I was connecting to other souls that empathized with my struggles. There were others just as confused and lost as I was; I wasn’t alone anymore. It’s what inspired me to start writing. Perhaps I too could connect with someone by sharing my experiences, and someway somehow make life a little more bearable similar to how other writers inspired me to keep going. I don’t know what contribution I’ll make someday to humanity, but if my words can somehow be the soothing words of reassurance to temporarily appease others that were like the past me, then I can die a happy woman.
To be honest, I didn’t come to realize this until recently. I thought I was perfectly fine being alone, that I could survive living a life of isolation if need be. However even if I lived as a recluse, my heart would always come back to reading and writing, and literature is all about connection. It’s not a direct connection like doctors have with their patients, but its a connection nonetheless. Most of the time, you don’t really know your audience, or who ever happens to grace their eyes on your words. Themes of hope, friendship, love and the like tie people together despite the diverse backgrounds they come from. There’s a difference of opinions when it comes to how a subject should be handled, such as love and loss. And to quote Flaubert,“You must write for yourself, above all. That is your only hope of creating something beautiful.” I’m taking it to heart and writing not to impress anyone or gain attention, but merely in hopes that someone out there also feels the same. I don’t claim to be a good writer by any stretch (god knows there’s a lot I can improve on), but I can only write in my words and my voice, no one else’s. Despite how unique and original we think we are, we’re all just really after the same things in life: to be happy and to be loved. I suppose we all want to form a constellation out of the blips in the big cosmos we live in, to feel like somehow we belong somewhere.
Before I digress and ramble farther away from my original intention, I wanted to share the books that made an impact in my life. The books that shaped my perception about life, love, and loss. It’s these books that helped me through my darkest of times, the books that I turn to time and time again when I feel like I’m losing my way. The were the sort of Lode Star that guided me back where I needed to be. Perhaps I’ll elaborate how each have changed me, but it may be too long for this post, and it’s far too late (2:00 am) my for my mind to function properly to do them justice. Without further ado, I present the works that shaped my life: Don Quixote, The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Kafka on the Shore, As I Lay Dying, The Geography of Bliss, A Jane Austen Education, A Sense of an Ending, Le Petit Prince, and The Things They Carried. I hope that somehow it makes an impact in your life like it did in mine.
Contrary to popular belief, it really is okay to turn down that Facebook event invitation to the “most epic rager of the year,” or to turn down that guy/girl that’s “on your jock,” or to just be alone from time to time. Solitude is nice, just ask Henry David Thoreau. Jane Austen died unmarried, yet its goes without saying that she was a proponent to love and the great things that come with it. According to studies of her life, she’s had suitors and proposals that could have saved her from being that 40-year old virgin, but she remained steadfast in her desire to not settle for someone she didn’t have the capacity to love. So stop wasting your time trying to surround yourself with people that only seem to care about you, stop trying to fill the void of loneliness by hooking up with people that are just plain bad news, just stop focusing on the lack and instead take a good honest look at who and what you’re becoming.
Nowadays, society is so wrapped up in the idea that every happy ending involves a pairing of sorts. That you’re never really happy until you’ve foundThe One- The One to sweep you off your feet, take you away to a far off land where no problem ever exists, where you’ll live happily ever after. There’s all sorts of dating shows that promote promiscuous mating rituals of people in their twenties and thirties. There’s a plethora of books on how to improve yourself so you’re not quite so forever alone. Can you really blame business savvy executives for marketing, selling, and making money out of people’s desperate plea to escape loneliness? It’s embedded in our psyche that you’re supposed to find someone; its in fairy tales, Cinderella and Prince Charming, Ariel and Eric, Jasmine and Aladdin.
Now, I’m not saying that finding your one true love is terrible, in all honesty I think its a great think to find your person. This is just to say that we shouldn’t be so afraid of being alone from time to time. From trends I’m noticing from my friends and from looking back on my actions, we’ve all been so terrified of being alone that it drives us to do things we wouldn’t do otherwise. We do it to appease that little demon inside taunting our failed relationships, and to calm the monsters of doubt that question whether or not we’ll ever find our person. The tendency is to hyper-socialize: go to bars or parties, get past the point of of inhibition, flirt with men/women we wouldn’t otherwise flirt with, and depending on your luck, hook-up. I know that’s what I did. I spent the last two years of my college experience exploring the social scene scoping the men available in my vicinity. From that, I’ve gathered experiences worthy of the term “YOLO.” But from the many encounters I’ve had with guys at bars and parties, there was still something missing, something no handsome man can ever equate to. It was inner peace.
I think what society needs is to be okay with ourselves. I think we need to remember that it’s okay not be in a relationship all the time; that being alone can be quite fun sometimes. Having a man/woman in your life is great, it gives you a reason to wake up in the morning, a reason to smile at a silly text, and a cause for the extra sparkle in your smile. However it’s not going to solve all of life’s problems-in fact they may cause more of it. But self-acceptance, being happy with who you are rather than what you have, may lead us closer to the path towards happiness.
To me, having a boyfriend/girlfriend and being with someone are two different states of being. Having and being are two separate entities. Having someone implies that you have attained a person that adores you enough to do things for you and or with you. Being with someone on the other hand, means that you are with someone that accompanies you through your successes, your struggles, your growth. To have versus to be, that is the question. In my opinion at least, I think the latter is more important than the former. Having a boyfriend/girlfriend elicits the same effect as owning a person, problem is you can never truly own a person. They will never truly be yours, not even momentarily because they’ll always be themselves first and only your boyfriend/girlfriend second. To think that you can ever possess a person by being with them is foolish and naive. Being with someone allows the other person to also live and grow as their journey dictates, after all we’re in our own personal journeys towards our dreams and happiness. Having a person with you in that journey makes the victories and successes all the much sweeter.
Upon this elucidation, I’ve become more at ease with myself. I’ve gotten into a point in my life when I’ve come to terms with being alone. I only exaggerate when I tell my friends that I’ll be “forever alone,” but I don’t really find it as horrible as others make it out to be. For the past couple of weeks I’ve been a bit of a recluse, dodging social interaction with friends I haven’t seen in a while, fabricating intricate stories to mask the fact that I’d rather stay home and read a book, declining invites to events that my former self would never have turned down. I know that I’ll find someone out there who shares a similar taste in books, movies, and music, someone who can wander around museums and marvel at the magnificence of a great piece of art, someone who can listen to me ramble on about passions that drive me to do things out of my comfort zone; in other words, my person. I’m sure he’s out there somewhere, doing things normal people do, wondering the same questions that loiter all our minds from time to time. But until the time comes when I’ve met the person to accompany me in the journey of life, I’ll be perfectly lonely with a good read a strong cup of coffee in my hand.
there are worse things than
but it often takes decades
to realize this
and most often
when you do
it’s too late
and there’s nothing worse