The difference between being lonely and being alone.

Loneliness isn’t a feeling you have, or a specific emotion you experience. It’s not a simple mind frame you sometimes find yourself in. It’s so much more than that. It’s the depth of a missing piece. It’s emptiness. It’s rolling over at night and  reaching for something that was never really there.

Being alone is something else entirely. It’s that independence you come to to appreciate, to own. It’s browsing a random bookshop with a coffee in hand for hours at a time. It’s recognizing the strength that comes with understanding yourself in a way that nobody else could ever be capable of. It’s knowing that you’re capable of making it through the roughest of storms – a little bruised, a little battered – but alive.

Truth be told there’s an enormous difference between the two. It’s only when taking that path from one to another that you truly come to appreciate the depth of the human experience. That euphoria you feel when holding someone’s hand? It’s perfectly okay to feel that sort of thing when you’re alone as well.

I guess you go through these different stages while navigating that messy path into adulthood. You think you’re ready for things and you rush right in only to find out you’re not. That there’s still a whole lot of learning to do.

It’s like suddenly you’re 15 and you’ve got your hands on booze for the first time. You totally think you’ll be able to handle it. Everyone else around you is managing, so why aren’t you? It seems like a great idea – until you’re stumbling blindly outside to chuck up those four cruisers on the front lawn before it has even hit midnight.

You wake up with a shitty hangover and there’s this very distinct thought that races to the front of your hazy mind. That this is something totally new. That it’s going to take time. That there’s nothing wrong with that.

Not my best metaphor, but it does the trick.

There was a period in my life late last year/early this year where I fell in and out of dating people at a far too frequent pace. I sort of jumped from person to person in a way that I never really had before. It was fun while it lasted but I got to this point where something ended and it just served as this giant wake-up call. I sort of had to ask myself what the hell I’d been doing. This wasn’t me. It never had been. So why I was trying to make it be?

Independence is something I’ve always prided myself on. Yet there I was looking back on a solid six month period where I’d very much been putting my happiness into the hands of other people.

I don’t think that’s healthy at all. Never have, never will. And to have found myself demonstrating the exact behavior that I’d always been so critical of? It genuinely startled me.

I’d become one of those people who rushed from person to person in a desperate bid to not be alone. In the process I’d managed to lose sight of what I actually wanted out of my life. Of the things I wanted to achieve.

So I made a decision to head out on my own for a while. To turn that light off. 

I can say without a moment’s hesitation that the last six months I’ve spent doing just that? Absolutely the best decision I’ve ever made. Cold? Yes? Lonely? Fuck yeah. But so, so necessary. If I’m being completely honest, I think everyone should take some time out once in a while. Spend a bit of time not defined by waiting for someone to text back; not locked in the neurotic head game that is dating as a twentysomething.

I did this and what it really did above all else was give me the time; the mental space I really needed to get back to the shit that actually mattered.

I graduated from university. I landed a really rad job in a really rad place. I worked on rebuilding those friendships I’d let slip away. I started building some very solid plans for my own future. I got back on the track that I’d accidentally wandered so far from.

I’ve come to understand that things happen precisely when they’re supposed to. Not a moment beforehand and not a moment after.

Do I feel ready for the next tornado to tear through my life? God no. You never know when these things are coming. That’s life.

It’s messy, it’s complicated, and I can almost guarantee it won’t make sense – but it’s all a part of it. It’s the price we pay for living.

Feature image: forrestbezotte.com//

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