The art of being alone


Formerly published in The Other Press. Oct. 23 2012

There is no shame in solitude
By Elliot Chan, Contributor

After a grueling week of customer service and group projects, it’s healthy to want some alone time. Yet, to many people the idea of going out by themselves is pitiful. What could be worse than entering a restaurant and asking for a table for one? Society has made it taboo to enjoy solitary pleasures, but I find solace in knowing that nobody can alienate those already alone.

We live in a chaotic world where everyone is juggling responsibilities and relationships in one hand, and trying to hold their coffee in the other. People claim to know how to relax, but they’re often simply introducing another stressful activity. Don’t underestimate the strenuousness of hanging out with friends. It can be exhausting trying to gather everyone and diplomatically decide what to do. Enough of them—it is time to focus on yourself. Go on and ask yourself what you really want to do, and do it.

Time alone is not wasted time. In fact, occasional solitude is beneficial. For one thing, being alone allows your brain to function at a slower pace. In a group, a collection of minds can work as one to formulate solutions. Alone, your mind is simply allowed to drift from thought to thought, analyzing data at its own speed and arriving at personally desirable conclusions. This is a replenishing experience. I consider it the ground floor of being yourself. From there, you can understand your ideal mode of concentration and that is the staircase to self-discovery. Sorry to get all Zen on you guys, but it is a vital part of examining whether or not you are in fact a needy jerk.

Of course, I am not telling you to join a monastery and become a recluse. I’m also not telling you to cancel plans to take naps either. What I am saying is that it is okay to negotiate time with yourself, your co-workers, classmate, friends, family, and significant others. Solitude will improve your relationship with all those people, because any form of relationship is a reflection of yourself. So the better you recognize your own features, the clearer you can see those in others.

Being independent is a positive attribute. Some people consider it loneliness, but I consider it freedom. I am free to try that new restaurant, watch that old movie, or visit a town that I never knew existed. We don’t need to feel guilty or ashamed for going on adventures alone. We should feel privileged. So schedule some solitary time, because in a world of over seven billion people, it is the time alone that we should truly cherish.

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