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Being Alone is not the Same as Being Lonely


I think I’m starting to realize something that I’ve been denying for a very long time. I am perfectly happy alone, and that is okay. My entire life, I’ve had these hermitlike tendencies to isolate myself. As long as I can remember I’ve preferred to spend most of my time in my own company, enjoying the things that I enjoy. Alone. Quiet. The only company I’ve ever really enjoyed during my alone time was Abbey’s. She was a dog. She was old. She mostly just lay there, maybe snoring. She wasn’t exactly a distraction unless I wanted her to be. Pets are the perfect companion for a person that likes to be alone.

For most of my life, I’ve been worried about being alone. I’ve been told repeatedly that I should spend time alone. That it would be dangerous for me to be alone because it would make me feel lonely.

There might be some truth to that.

I feel lonely sometimes.

Usually when I’m in a group of people that don’t quite seem to get me.

So, I feel lonely mostly when I’m with people.

That’s how I am, and that probably means there is something broken inside of me. That’s okay. I’m broken. Who cares?

This Will Be the Year of Self

I think a lot of my own, personal baggage comes from the fact that I’ve always worried that there was something wrong with me because I enjoyed being on my own. I’m telling you right now that I’m putting that baggage on the carousel and leaving it at the airport. I am a hermit. I like to be on my own, living my simple, monastic life. I will only interact with who I want, when and how I want. I won’t feel guilty for not spending time with people just to spend time with them. I won’t let my friends or family tell me there is anything wrong with being alone. There isn’t. What’s wrong is with being unhappy in your situation.

I’m not unhappy alone.

I’ve been reading the book Going Solo and realizing that there is a stigma about being alone that creates a lot of emotional baggage for people that prefer to be alone. It made me realize that I am one of those people. I also realized that the reason I was so afraid to be alone was because of the stigma that I carried about it.

I thought that there was something wrong with me for wanting to be alone. I thought that I was supposed to need someone in my life at all times because that’s how things are done.

There isn’t anything wrong with me. I have people in my life. I have friends and family that I talk to and visit when I want to. Being on my own isn’t what makes me unhappy. It isn’t the cause of my depression. It doesn’t make me a loser. It makes me who I am. It lets me be me.

Rediscovering and Redefining Hermitage

Monks and wise men have always lived alone. They lived on the outskirts of human society, coming into town when they needed to trade their garden vegetables or rabbit furs or what have you. They’d spend a night, maybe two, interacting with the local people. You know, drinking some ale at the inn, reading fortunes, blessing babies, predicting earthquakes. Usually wise-man stuff. Then they would return back to their cloistered hollow or high mountain cave to go back to the real art of living. The hermit part, the part where they don’t wear pants and sniff methane chemicals from stone cracks to get high and see the future. The good parts of life.

They weren’t the only ones to live off on their own either. For centuries and centuries the wisest and most respected of humanity were the ones that lived on the fringes of society, consorting with demons and other powerful hallucinogens, creating the processes of what would eventually become chemistry and pharmacology, generally being bad-asses of mind and spirit. We had names for them like Hermit, Crone, Monk, Witch, Oracle. There were thousands of them.

I’m reclaiming that right.

I live alone (although I live under a family). I spend 90% of my time outside of work completely alone. I interact with the people I decide to interact with, usually online, but not always. I come and go as I please. I make time to do the things I want to do. I’m thinking about getting a cat, but that’s still not decided.

I do need to learn some things about myself and about living alone. I need to learn how to cook for one without just buying frozen dinners. Although, I’m not sure that’s actually a problem. $0.88 per meal isn’t as bad as it could be, and pre-portioned meals are really making it much easier to watch my calories and lose weight. (I’m down 5 pounds since I moved out on my own again)

I probably need to get better about household maintenance, too. For example, I have something like 3 weeks worth of clothes, so I don’t do laundry until I am completely tapped out and then I have 8 loads to do. I should start doing that once a week.

I also need to finish unpacking.  That’s hard, though, because some of my things have been in boxes for over a year, and I just don’t feel like this space is mine yet. Of course, that would probably change if I finished unpacking. Vicious cycle.

Still, that’s going to be part of learning to be me. I have to learn to accept a space as mine and then allow myself to make it my own. It might be a long time before I can afford the cabin in the middle of a large stake of land miles away from a city, or a loft towering above a city so that all if it is below me.

Seriously, how awesome would either of those be?

Although, I have to admit, I favor Sky Hermit, but I’d prefer to have both. One for my every day living, one for running away from the entire world.

Or, if solar-powered cars become a thing, a badass RV that roams the entire world, righting wrongs, helping the little guy.

Yep. Life is going to be pretty sweet.

Published by M.A. Brotherton

M.A. Brotherton is a writer, blogger, artist, and fat-kid from the suburbs of Kansas City, Missouri. He’s tasted a little bit of everything the Midwest has to offer, ranging from meth-tweaking rednecks in massive underground cave complexes to those legendary amber waves of grain. When he’s not writing, he spends most of his time screwing around on the internet.

5 thoughts on “Being Alone is not the Same as Being Lonely”

  1. Tracy Mangold says:

    I think the realization that it’s OKAY to be alone and not a requirement to be with someone is a huge deal. Not everyone NEEDS to have someone at their side. There is a joy in being at peace with that. And who says it isn’t normal? Whatever works for YOU is what is right. And you aren’t really alone. Like you wrote, there is a difference between being alone and loneliness. You can be in a sea of people and still be the loneliest person on the planet. You can be alone and yet be completely socially satisfied – at a time of your choosing. I hope I’m wording this properly so it makes sense. You are you. And who you are is awesome. Sky hermit would be cool. I want a picture of that.

    1. M.A. Brotherton says:

      I might be able to come up with a picture of Sky Hermit, but I’m pretty sure that gets you terrorists sent to your house.

      Not that they know where I live… because I’m a hermit.

      … or something.

      Really, though. I am satisfied to be on my own right now and not looking to change that. I think too many people obsess over pairing off and coupling up. If that works for them, awesome, but for me, nuts to it.

  2. ***C*** says:

    There is a stigma in choosing to be alone. If someone is alone, or chooses to be alone, then there must be something wrong with him/her. But there isn’t. It’s perfectly okay for that person to enjoy the quiet and solitude of their own company. It would be wise if our society and culture could become aware of the difference between aloneness and loneliness, because then perhaps we’d be able to minimize the relentless noise that fills the void.

  3. Meredith S says:

    I’m a firm believer that everyone needs a certain amount of solitude in order to function. I get really crabby when I’m not given my solitude on a regular basis. I completely respect your need to enjoy more solitude. Hermit it up, Sky Hermit!

    1. M.A. Brotherton says:

      I am a firm believer that people are mean and they only want to devour my soul, so I need a barrier between them and myself.

      I might have issues.

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