I have always been selectively social. It’s not that I actively avoid interactions; I do challenge other peoples’ opinions and enter discussions. I enjoy debates and exchange of ideas and views. I am quite friendly, or so I’d like to think. The fault that I admit to is that I don’t turn every acquaintance into a friend.
Since I changed my school, my friend circle has been pretty small, which is admittedly due to my reluctance to make new friends quickly. I’ve always preferred to read a good book rather than engage in conversations, and thus been popularly accused of loneliness.
I suppose I would appear lonely from afar, a person sitting by himself, reading a book. But somehow I never felt that loneliness, not under those conditions. Whenever there was a free period, the class would huddle into small groups and chat. And I’d sit in a corner by the window, usually with a book. Even when I didn’t have a book, I’d just stare out the window or scribble ideas on my notebook. Even though I was not in any of the groups, I simply didn’t feel that seclusion, that desolation of being lonely.
It wasn’t as though I had never been lonely; I can recall plenty of times when I really felt the need to talk to someone but wasn’t able to. But when I was reading, or even just staring out the window into nothingness, I didn’t feel that sadness, the isolation of loneliness.
I pondered over what differentiated those moments of remoteness, and that chain of thought led to me to a realization. What I felt while staring outside wasn’t loneliness. It was solitude, and there’s a major difference. Loneliness is being without others, while solitude is being with yourself.
Solitude looks within you, and discovers that gigantic treasure trove of thoughts and imagination that you have. Loneliness looks outside you, and discovers that there isn’t anyone with whom you can share that treasure. It’s that feeling of having so much to share, yet no one to share it with.
“One can be instructed in society, one can be inspired only in solitude.” Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Solitude is something I’ve grown to treasure. In these days, when we are inevitably entangled in the webs of social media and constant communication, solitude provides melodious silence. It offers you those cherished moments of thought. Pure, unconstrained thought stretching into all directions. It instills calmness, contentment, into the chaotic everyday life.
From my frank observations, I have realized that those surrounded by other people are often more lonely than the ones alone. It’s never been about how many people you know. In this race for social acceptance, we tend to blindly trot upon whatever path is the most popular. Despite the risk of being clichéd, I’d end with the age old saying: respect yourself before expecting others to respect you. Until you enjoy being comfortable with yourself, it’s pointless to seek the comfort of being with others.