Words by Emily Fuller
Loneliness presents itself as a kind of darkness, hauling you down into an endless abyss of insecurity, negativity and emotionlessness. Suffocating you, paralysing you and debilitating you. People feel this on an enormous scale particularly after they find themselves in the midst of a breakup – you are ricocheted into this new world of singledom, the familiarity of companionship completely stripped from your sense of wellbeing. I know that was my initial realisation after coming out of my first long-term relationship.
It’s absolutely, utterly, completely terrifying. Straight after my break up, I was suddenly fixated on this black hole of loneliness opening itself up inside of me – hollowing out my chest and making my brain work on a loop continuum, obsessing over what went wrong and whether it was the right decision. I found myself desperately grasping for opportunities to stay out late at night, so I could hopelessly prolong the inevitability of lying in bed – feeling my insecurities cruelly locking my mind within itself and inviting me down the dangerous rabbit hole of overanalysing.
During the countless days, weeks and months of torturing myself over the grief I was experiencing, I failed to realise that this was not a healthy way of embracing a new found freedom that I had stumbled across. Ironically, and after some pretty intense self-reflection, I discovered that I was blurring the lines of loneliness and being alone – which are two totally different states of existence contrary to what some of you may think. I suppose part of my subconscious just naturally assumed that because I was grieving and adjusting to a significant loss, that I must’ve been lonely, when the basic truth was that I had just found myself in this unfamiliar territory of independence without a partner. Epiphany soon struck me right between the eyes, jolting me into this new mode of perceiving life through a brand new lens of technicoloured opportunity. Suddenly, I had all of these non-romantic relationships before me, urging me to open up and connect to new people in my life or rekindling old friendships that I embarrassingly neglected during the period of my relationship. I wasn’t lonely. I was just simply alone, completely independent without anyone to define part of who I was.
So with this new realisation under my belt, I set myself the mission of learning about myself with this newfound sense of self-reliance. I have always been considerably independent and comfortable in my own company, but after being a couple of years out of practice I had to retrain myself and discover modes of being alone that made me feel both content and empowered. Rather than instantaneously filling voids of feeling lonely with new partners, I limited myself to dating. I swapped dining out with dates to dining out alone, feeling immersed and satisfied merely in the company of a good book. I strolled through markets on my own, hopelessly struggled through yoga sessions alone, and took several little road trips without an audience to appreciate my tone-deaf car ballads. I won’t deny that at first it felt a little bizarre, but I quickly learnt to take pleasure in my time by myself, as well as learning to not take the time I did have in the company of friends and family for granted. I unearthed new passions and qualities within myself that I hadn’t been game enough to indulge in previously. Writing became my immersive and creative outlet – providing me with an endless blank canvas to colour my world and experiences. I learnt how to be the kind of friend that I have always desired to be for others and am proud of being – this may be one of the most significant forms of self-growth I have made. I fell back in love with reading. With rock climbing and yoga. With overindulging in one too many glasses of wine. With stargazing and with late night conversations with the people you love. Being on my own gave me the confidence to organise a solo exchange and backpacking trip, it also gave me the courage to let myself be emotionally vulnerable to myself as well as others. Most importantly – it has provided me with a sense of self-worth that I have never before acknowledged and has therefore made me aware of what I am deserving of in future relationships and friendships. This may all sound like a physical and external transformation, but it all stemmed from seeking out the internal anxieties I had laying dormant within me, festering and breeding further insecurities and dis-ease that I wasn’t really aware of. Yes, it’s valuable to be content in your own company on a surface platform, but it also takes being comfortable on a metaphysical level – within your own mind and consciousness.
Now I am not saying that you’re incapable of self-growth and appreciating these little treasures of life if you’re in a relationship – I want it make that very clear that everyone is capable and deserving of this. What I am saying is that what it means to be single is not defined by enduring loneliness. It is not sacrificing happiness or love or care or affection, but rather about digging deep and finding these things within yourself than receiving it from just another romantic partner. Yes, you may have been single for quite some time and are feeling anxious to find that sense of partnership again. You may feel totally frustrated when a potential love interest does not work out. But for the time being I hope you can see that you are amazing and incredible enough to be your own companion and to gift yourself that kindness and love and nourishment. Being in a relationship and in love is absolutely marvellous, but it’s lovely just in the same vain as being alone and in love with your own company.
Art by Pedro Tapa