Loneliness is a special place.
Like many girls in my generation, I grew up believing that we are supposed to long for a relationship, which would offer us a shelter and stability, and most importantly, protect us from being alone. Loneliness means that you are not compatible socially, something must be wrong with you, which means that you are a failure, which means that you should avoid it at all costs.
Surprisingly, I believe that there was nothing more important to my personal development and growth than my lonely time, solitary travels and quiet evenings all by myself. Rather than view my loneliness as a wound that requires the immediate cure of someone’s attention, I have always tried to fill it with action. With books, art, research, writing. Whatever moves you. Instead of getting sad and thinking that I will end up alone, having a lot of cats, I try to embrace my solitude and simply get to work.
You can make a wonderful use out of your loneliness. There are activities, such as writing, creating, painting, or simply thinking, that all require you to be alone — and to feel comfortable while being so. I learned who I was when nobody was around. Some nights I’d lay in bed with my book and think of how nice it would be to have a boyfriend there. Looking back, I realize how nice it was that I didn’t.
I had learned how to truly like myself, how to turn my loneliness into something productive. I learned to love my solitary routines — aromatic coffee cups in the favourite café around the corner with my pen and notebook, morning runs along the river and quiet evenings with open windows and wonderful books. Those rituals became the perfect expression of my identity, that I learned to discover and embrace all by myself. This was necessary to become a whole me, to feel that I reached an integrity as a human being, and only in this state, I would be potentially able to share my life with somebody else.
Alone had always felt like an actual place to me, as if it weren’t a state of being, but rather a room where I could retreat to be who I really was.
Without a doubt, the times I’ve spent living, travelling, and hiking alone have been the most formative of my life so far. These experiences are a result of immense privilege; a privilege I know many people — women in particular — do not have. But if you do, you should and must embrace the opportunities to be alone. You don’t have to go living in a forest in a self-made house or study insects in the jungle, but you do need to challenge yourself sometimes. Maybe a lonely hike for few days, or just a quiet day in your secret spot. It’s not about wasting time, it’s about listening to your inner silence, even if only for a second.
And you’ll be surprised how much there is to listen to.
Originally published at medium.com