First off, this isn’t a pity piece. If anything, it’s an attempt at self empowerment. It’s taking a shot at owning a feeling that’s been enthroned in my subconscious since my earliest childhood memories. Not because I wasn’t loved, or cared for, or given affection; but because at the core, it’s part of who I am. I’m lonely.
Now I can tell what most people are thinking, and that’s “but Tim, loneliness is a feeling, not a personality characteristic” and that could be very true. However, it’s not as simple as that. Sure, loneliness is a feeling, but so is sadness. Do you tell the depressed man that sadness is not an aspect of who he is, when it has shaped him his entire life?
We encourage ourselves and others to live in joy as if there’s no merit in other feelings. As if it’s a natural state we should all be able to just tap into by decluttering, removing negative people, following our passion, and a hundred other bullshit ways to deal with life. Not that those things don’t have their own merit, but you can’t simplify and cut and paste your way to happiness. Life is more complicated than that, and life hacks won’t fix your soul.
We all work on a baseline, and that’s our natural personality and instinct to feel and act. My baseline kind of sucks. I have anger issues, I keep secrets, I’m an addict, and above all else, I’m lonely. Again, this is something I remember from my earliest memories. Our baseline will always fight to pull us back, and that’s why we take active effort to move it in a different direction. The less we work on it, the more we operate near our baseline. Even when we have done all the work, our baseline thoughts will still pop into our heads. When something bad happens, the thought “kill yourself” still pops into my head, no matter how much personal development I’ve done. Not that I’m doing it, but it’s like a reminder in my brain of where I come from.
Back to loneliness. I understand that I am loved, and I love. People care, and I care. I am personable, I get along with almost everyone, I have people I call friends. Yet I also understand that I am alone. We’re all alone, really. We’re born alone and we die alone. If everything is taken from us, we are all we have. Maybe my awareness of this fact is just more fine tuned than most people, or maybe it’s just another aspect of my insanity. Whatever it may be, it doesn’t change what my reality is.
Though liked and loved, I was never fully integrated into cliques and social groups. Always just on the outside, like a relief pitcher or a bass player. I remember it in childhood, adolescence, adulthood, even now in middle age. I’m an introvert, and I’m very solitary. And the truth is, I have trouble fitting in.
It can be difficult to this day, when I see myself excluded by people I see as friends. I know I’m difficult to maintain a relationship with. Bipolar people are difficult, and my mood shifts and little episodes are straining. That’s not even to mention major episodes, which can cause huge rifts and divides that may be impossible to repair. I get it. I’m not easy to stay friends with unless you’re equally as fucked up.
These are some of the reasons I’ve always found myself on the outside. When you find yourself on the outside, you, at minimum, feel alone. It’s this solitude that I grew up with, and that stays with me today. I’m an introvert, and social interaction can take a lot out of me. I come up with most of my ideas when I’m alone. I churn out more art and writing when I’m by myself.
People often believe that our strength comes strictly from courage and our joy, while ignoring that joy and courage can only spring from fear and suffering. I’ve found strength in loneliness, where I’ve learned to be self reliant (sometimes to a fault) and capable. I’ve learned that acceptance of my solitary nature is actually the beginning of finding my place in the world.
It’s okay to be a loner. It’s okay to be an outlier. In fact, a huge number of successful people are outliers. Success itself isn’t the norm, so naturally people who are successful aren’t normal. Embrace that difference. I’ve actually started getting apex solitary hunters tattooed on me. A tiger, soon a saltwater crocodile, then a great white shark. Reminders to myself that being alone isn’t a bad thing, and the separation I’ve always felt from the herd can be my greatest asset.