It is challenging to pinpoint what it is about solitude that makes it so hard to ignore. Is it the vulnerability, or the freedom or something else entirely? A synonym for solitude is peace, which I think adequately captures how I feel about the subject. When I was packing up my things to move here, I was very focused on what I would need and who/what I would miss. However, I wasn’t thinking about what it would really mean to be living on my own in a new city. I actually kept telling myself I wouldn’t be alone since 1) I was going with one of my best friends from college and 2) I had other English teachers placed at the same school as me. While those two facts were very comforting to me before I left, and they both are entirely true, they do not exist independently of loneliness.
For a good portion of my day to day life here, I am by myself. I’m not complaining, it’s just a fact. That means that I do whatever my heart desires and the best part is, there is no one to try and make me feel guilty for it. Back home, there are so many ways that we are told that we are not doing life right if we don’t work, go to the gym, volunteer, keep up all of our friendships, go to church, cook, clean, date and practice self care. To say the least, I am enjoying this reprieve from the pressure of living a ‘successful Western life’. Here, I am winning at life just for walking to and from work (no one walks here…anywhere).
It feels like a very different life I was living when I think of how busy I constantly was before moving here. From the moment I woke up to the moment I fell asleep, I was either with people, making plans to be with people or worrying about keeping plans I had made to be with people. I was very rarely by myself. And that’s how I liked my life. I have always been the type of person to surround myself with the people I love.
About 6 months ago, I walked down to the pier after work and watched the sun set, got dinner and ice cream, by myself. I joked with my boss after that I forgot how good of company I was. Now that I think back to that comment, I feel sad because of how true it is. I forgot how good of company I can be for myself. In other words, I had forgotten that I was enough, that I could be my own friend, that I could be with myself in the silence and not be sad. Society bombards us with the idea that if we’re alone, we’re incomplete and not worthy. And the only acceptable time to be alone is if something is wrong.
I have had to remind myself that not only is it okay to be alone, but it’s okay to be happy and alone.
Rainer Maria Rilke, a German poet, said: “I hold this to be the highest task of a bond between two people: that each should stand guard over the solitude of the other.” I want to remember this quote and take it with me back home to my relationships there.
This past weekend, I flew down to Surat Thani to see MC. I realized on my way there that it was the first time I had ever traveled by myself. There is something about knowing you are completely responsible and dependent on yourself that is exhilarating. I am always the type of person to make sure others are happy and I usually do my best to be as easy going as possible. So, the idea of the only person having to listen to being ME was actually really nice.
You’ve probably read those sayings, ultimately urging you to ‘date yourself’ before you date any one else. Well going with that saying, this year in Thailand is a long-term, serious relationship…with myself.