For the past year, living with COVID-19, life has taken on different shades and hues for different people, depending on their socio-economic status, age, gender, the geography of residence, etc. But given all the trials and tribulations, the sorrow and anxiety, one thing is for certain – life did change. And one of the most common complaints I heard from family and friends was how the lockdown ruined their social life, how it stopped (or later reduced) social gatherings, and how miserable they were in their own company.
All I could do is feign agreement as I spoke because I happen to be one of those people who prize solitude above anything else. It is not hard to see, though, why being alone has come to be looked upon as one of the biggest misfortunes that can afflict a person today – for this is the age where the culture of instant sharing and 24×7 connectivity has infiltrated lives and where any need to be disconnected turns into a matter of disadvantage for survival.
Being alone can, and does sound scary. The lives of couples or people anchored with a support system, be it the family or a circle of close acquaintances, are heavily documented every now and then, but how often is the life of a singleton put on a public dais for appreciation and critique? Not often, simply because it caters to one of the biggest fears people harbor. Being alone sans the cemented sphere of supporting well-wishers is too daunting an idea to be even thought of.
The craving to be alone is often looked upon as a weird eccentricity – a behavior that is not socially approved. The struggle is real – ask any single person about their experience of going to a movie alone, traveling solo, or taking themselves out on a date to a cozy cafe – and you are sure to be met with at least some stories about how they were met with disdain, especially so if the narrator happens to be a woman.
If I kept count of the number of times I have said ‘no’ to an outing – I would have gone insane. But the comfort of my cowardly ideas helps me each time in coming up with an excuse, effectively masking the uncomfortable truth in the process. For me, weekends are meant for staying in – nothing brings greater joy than spending some time with yourself, even in the din and noise of metropolitan traffic and pollution, doing what you like without the pressure of involving yourself in activities you would like others to believe you like.
Despite the supposed rituals of me-time, the buzz around the newly minted word of ‘self-partnership’, and the craze surrounding digital detoxes, little time is given to cultivating a meaningful relationship with oneself. It is a big ask indeed – to be up close with yourself, to look within yourself, at the microcosm you have unwittingly built over the years, and nurture the wells of intimacy which spring
unexpectedly. Me-time is not to be measured or tracked via an app; for navigating the soulful corridors of the world you have inhabited for so long does not have any perceptible peripheries.
In solitude, there is love and peace to be found.
In solitude, there is creativity to be found.
It is in solitude that many a discovery that ushered in the next era has been made, a bestselling novel has
been crafted or a musical piece has been written.
It is in solitude that our senses are at their mostheightened and sharpened form, where they are able to filter the wheat from the chaff to frame thegrand designs of our lives with the right perspective.
So why do we castigate people who actively desire isolation so much? Why do we uphold diversity as a universal value but seek to crush the trifecta of individuality, authenticity, and intricacy? Why do we run away from the very person we spend our entire lives with –ourselves?
There is an unsaid need to stop giving away our time like freebies to other people who demand the most precious commodity we have every now and then. Sure, one might come across as weird or inconsistent with social propriety in the event of denial but what good am I offering to the world if I am not offering something different? No matter how archaic it may seem, penning letters of intimacy to myself, through the medium of writing, verbal verse, or lyrical actions have constituted the best times of my life!