A popular topic online lately is the notion of being alone vs being lonely. It seems that even though we’re permanently connected to the world via technology, people still struggle with loneliness. We grapple with how to deal with both in a healthy manner, or if we even can at all.
In the blogosphere, I read several articles aimed at trying to answer this question. I recently read Darling Magazine’s “Loneliness vs. Being Alone: What You Need to Know” and found it a great starting point if you’re not sure where you fall. Also, I found articles devoted to embracing being alone, like Darling Magazine’s “5 Signs You Were Made for Solo Travel,” Travel on the Brain’s “How to Not Feel Awkward When Eating Alone,” and LifeHacker’s “What to Do If You Start Choking When You’re Alone” (a nod to Liz Lemon’s greatest fear of living solo). Even my “The Year of the Work” letter from Kayley this month focused on the idea of being okay with living solo.
This notion is also flooding into the wellness industry. There are articles, apps, and videos focusing on meditation, self-awareness, self-care, and mindfulness. People are opening up to the idea that being alone can be positive and healthy. Taking a break from technology is also more common as a way to re-connect with oneself.
In my own life, I find myself focusing on whether I’m lonely or just cool with solitude. I think with all the messages I’m seeing around, it’s hard to ignore.
Am I lonely, or just a loner?
As a child and teenager, I spent a lot of time alone riding my bike, listening to music, reading, and just staring at the sky. I was still a social kid, between school, sports, and hanging out with my sister – but being alone was cool too. When I started college, I did what many of us do – I got wrapped up in being busy. I spent all my time in classes, volunteering, working, and being with friends.
Then I graduated, started working 40+ hours a week, and got married. The notion of doing things alone (or for myself) faded away for a long time. After a few years of this, my mind and body started to fight back. I was unhappy and unhealthy. So I bought a bicycle, started hiking and biking alone, started a blog, and spent time in coffee shops grading papers. I loved it at first.
Unfortunately, even in these times I spent alone, I never embraced it. Grading papers is still an obligation to someone else, which wasn’t a healthy use of my alone time. I hiked or biked when I was “allowed” to, and bargained with myself whether I had the time before being home to cook dinner, teach a class, or spend time with my husband. I would rush through hikes, race home on the bike, or give up entirely and just go home.
It took moving here for me to embrace being alone. I started hiking longer and going to coffee shops to work on the blog. Sometimes, I wander around the library, thrift shop, and have the cleanest house I’ve ever had. I read more, sleep more, and started meditating. Also, I use a Bullet Journal to stay on track, so I spend time doing things I want instead of getting distracted by dirty laundry or dishes.
But does doing these things make me less lonely?
I want to believe I’m not a lonely person, just cool with being alone. I am also really hoping that these small life changes I’m making will help in the long run, by establishing good habits I can carry with me through both lonely and not lonely times.