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Solitude—the “Non-Staple” Food of My Life

I have always been a little bit in love with solitude ever since high school, by which I do not mean that I am a lonely weirdo who has no friends and spends most of her time being alone, instead, what I mean is that I enjoy the time of being in solitude to the fullest intermittently.  And by taking it as a non-staple food in my life I get more easily to feel the sweetness and preciousness of human companionships when staying with friends and family.

The word “solitude”, which means the situation of being alone without other people, often by choice, can be easily mixed up with the word “loneliness”, which is a common misunderstanding that I’ve always wanted to clarify.  Actually, these two words have the essential difference, which can be concluded by [Paul Tillich]’s point, “Loneliness expresses the pain of being alone and solitude expresses the glory of being alone”.

Solitude is a common situation among human beings, you can never refuse to admit that you have experienced being in the state of solitude at least once or twice in your life, and please count in that ten months you spent in your mother’s womb alone as a fetus. However, despite the neutral character solitude has, there have been two quite different attitudes taken by two different kinds of people—lonely weirdoes and gregarious talents. The only thing they have in common is that both of them are wrong in some way.  Either they are like a drowning man clutching at a straw, totally drawn themselves in solitude, avoiding all kinds of social activities, or they are desperate for continuous company, afraid of getting along with themselves.  As a person who takes solitude as her non-staple food in her daily life, I would like to ask why must they bias toward one side, why not be someone in between?

Of course, nobody is born with willingness to have solitude as his constant companionship, and so am I.  Solitude is such a pleasant and amazing state that can be created by anybody at any unaware moments, for me I began to realize the state of solitude since I was a shy little girl in kindergarten, as I contentedly watched my kindergarten teacher playing the hawk-and-chicken game happily with other children.  Although at that time I was so shallow as to think my not participating in the game shows my antisocial quality by identifying “solitude” with “loneliness”, and then I felt so sad of not playing with them although I did share the joy of the game by simply watching.

And I didn’t believe and accept the joy of being in solitude until I was in high school.  It made me feel a sense of freedom, watching others constricted within the humans’ complex relationships while I was enjoying the initial and unique freedom when in solitude.  It allowed me to read and think in a deep way, bringing me an illusion that I lived with my soul, that I was having conversations with myself constantly when taking a stroll alone around the campus after supper.  It was like a process of making self-reflection of the inner ego, I walked with my mind empty and at ease, and the only sound I can hear is my own steps, and then I began to think what I had done today, what I was going to do the next day, etc.  Once I drew myself in the state of solitude, I was often very surprised to find that many things can be explained fairly in an opposite way, and many creative ideas began crowding in on me.  For example, I use to count how many times my watch’s hands overlap in a day, believe it or not, it overlaps 22 times if you count the minute and the hour hand only, and twice if three hands are counted together.  And I began to have courage and dare to try innovative things without worrying about being mocked and judged by my peers as I used to, so basically such things as “peer pressure” won’t disturb me in an effective way.  For now I still vividly remember that I volunteered to help my grandfather with weeding and growing rice in the field regardless of the fact that all my cousins cannot find a better way to avoid it.  And by the way, the result was that I got severely sunburned for the whole summer, but I helped my grandfather finished work ahead of time.

However, being in solitude is not that flawless, it also has disadvantages.  For one reason it sometimes makes me easily frightened by my own random thoughts when in an uncertain situation.  For instance, I use to do my homework and surf online in the teaching building, usually my cellphone’s playing “Born to Run” would normally back up my courage when leaving, and days when I forget to take my cellphone with me are very common, so as I leave the building I have to sing out aloud in order to calm myself down and not be aware of the frightening darkness around me when walking down the ladder.  And trust me, that is the moment those horror films I watched came back to me, although I watched very few of them and from a long time ago.  Normally, I would sing the song I learned during the summer holiday called “Do you hear the people sing”.  On the Halloween’s day, I walked out of the teaching building at about 11: 30, blaming myself for not keeping the queer festival in mind and as I walked into the side door of the dormitory room, I saw a horrible black shadow hovering in the upper stairways.  I could not see its face but I heard it murmuring, and it seemed to have notice that I was standing behind it, so it turned back and moved.  At that moment I began to scream aloud, and I turned my electric torch onto it, and suddenly I heard it spoke, “Excuse me, but do you have to be so scared as to scream and wake everybody up?”  Later I found out that the black shallow turned out to be Minor, and he happened to make this stupid phone call outside the room at nearly 12 o’clock.  I was very embarrassed at the moment, indeed.  And that was the moment I realized that solitude cannot be the staple food on the table of my life.  In order to enjoy it continually and with security, I have to continue to live constantly in companionship.

With time going by, my preference towards solitude has gone through a process, through the helplessness of being involved in it during childhood to the uncontrollable attachment to it, and here I found a famous saying to convey what I am trying to say here.  According to [Albert Einstein], “Solitude is painful when one is young, but delightful when one is mature”.  Like what Einstein said, I was a feel-lonely girl during my juvenile childhood because of not realizing the distinct difference between the two words that I mentioned above—solitude and loneliness, but now as I become more mature, I am on my way to feel the real happiness of solitude, and I do.

Now solitude plays a part of balancing my life and provides me a moment of serenity whenever I feel messed up or get no inspiration to write my essay, it’s also an inevitable non-staple food I eat every day for a certain amount of time.  It tastes pretty good, and I suggest those who have never voluntarily tried this to eat some in your daily life, maybe you will also find it tasty.