Why solitude matters

You walk into the cinema with your friends for a nice Friday night movie session.

Then you bump into a person that you know; sitting alone in the middle row, with a large tub of popcorn and a tall diet coke.

What would be your first reaction?

“Pity him, why is he all alone on a Friday night like this?”
“Where are his friends? Does he not have one?”
“Did he just break up with his girlfriend?”
“Is he depressed?”

These are the common reactions that people would make when they see someone they know spending time alone.

We live in the world where having company is a reflection of a person making it in the social world. The more friends a person has, the higher the position the person has on the social hierarchy.

We love making friends, and sometimes, we go out in groups most (if not all) the time not because we need to, but just because we are scared of being seen alone.

We don’t want to be that loser who fine dines alone.

Being alone, or being viewed as a lonely person, is still a taboo in our society that so values company.

There’s always a sense of shame associated with people who prefer spending their time alone.

We tend to think that when a person is alone, it must be because he has no choice but to be alone.

That he is undesirable. That he needs help.

And of course, that he needs our pity – which often comes in a way that also borders on schadenfreude, unfortunately.

***

Let’s go back to the person that you bumped into the cinema, devouring his popcorn and watching that chick-flick alone.

Why is he alone? Was he forced to do so by circumstances? If he indeed chose to be alone, why would he?

It’s simple, really.

We need solitude as much as we need company. And some of us, including the introverted ones, need the former more than the latter.

And that’s perfectly fine.

Imagine this situation – you go to work in a job that involves a lot of human interactions. You talk and write to people to get things done. Then you open your phone to take a 5-minute break and the first thing you’ll come across is your friend’s selfie – that friend that you just texted 10 minutes prior.

Then you go to the cubicle, and you meet a co-worker at the urinal. You exchanged some lines, probably about the group task that is due tomorrow, then you return to your cubicle and continue with work.

Then at home after dinner, with most of us millennials having to share their apartments with flatmates nowadays; chances are you will not get the whole couch to yourself either.

This is the reality of our generation today. Everywhere we go, even when looking at our iPhone screen, we see people, we interact with people, and we deal with people.

With all these happening day in and day out, don’t you think that we are often in desperate need for space?

I think we do.

And it kills us inside if we don’t.

Have you ever thought of your partner or friends annoying you so often, with the little things that they do? Have you ever blamed yourself for getting annoyed or moody so easily over the little things that people do?

If you have, you probably need some me-time. You need some space.

I love my space too. Frankly, going out to dinner alone sometimes, spending a week or two doing solo trips, and even taking a 2-hour drive alone to Melaka have really helped me put things into perspectives.

It’s when I am alone that I most appreciate the company that I have. Walking alone in a busy street of a foreign city reminds me of how good it feels like to have my close friends walking with me.

In many ways, spending some time alone, and getting ample space to be with myself, helps me enhance and preserve my relationship with a lot of people.

That’s why I really believe that solitude matters.

People who are out alone sometimes are not losers; nor are they miserable. They just know what they want – some space, and they are not ashamed to provide themselves with exactly what they need.

Solo latte at Huckleberry. Bring a book; lovely place for a read.

Speak soon,
FH

Friendship Beyond the “Drifting Away” Stage

Over the years, I crossed paths with many souls.

A little more than 800 of these souls ended up as my Facebook friends, a figure that I have yet to trim (in spite of the intention of doing so many times). Let’s condense this further: Of these Facebook friends, I probably physically met about a few dozen over the past 12 months. I keep regular, or weekly contact with maybe a handful.

This is when the definition of friendship itself gets interesting. How do you define friends? By the loosest definition, all of my Facebook friends are my “friends”. This is obviously putting a very low threshold to friendship.

How about defining friends as the people that I regularly meet over coffee or talk over Whatsapp with? If this is the case, maybe I only end up with having not more than 10 friends.

Well, truth is, there’s no strict definition of what a friendship should be made of.

Personally, I think that I have, over the years, developed the understanding that everyone has a lot of things that they have to deal with every single day. As we morph into different persons and grow out of the former state we were in (humans live in the state of permanent transiency anyway), our priorities shift. We graduate from college and enter the working world, with its new challenges. We shift work place to another company, with its new environment, demands and challenges. Some of us are married, some even have a kid or two to call their own. Our priorities shift.

With the shift of priorities often comes the “drifting away” stage. There’s a group of my friends that I used to meet up with once a week. This turned into once a month. Then once in a couple of months. Then occasionally.

Details aside, does “drifting away” means that one is not keen to keep his friendship? Not necessarily. Again, priorities change, so does the shape and form of the friendship. Because one is often surrounded by changing circumstances, it’s understandable that he would adapt himself to the situation he is in at the moment. This is fact of life. We are all malleable beings.

So to me, at the end of the day, when all is said and done, what really matters is how you keep your friends in your mind. Once you have the idea etched in your mind that someone is worthy of your long-term friendship and connection, nothing, not even time and distance, can ruin the bond that you have with that person. This is how I define friendship nowadays. I don’t need to see you every single week to remind myself that you are dear to me (well, a coffee session wouldn’t hurt, of course, but we live in a busy universe).

I understand if you don’t have as much time to spend with me as we used to.

But I want you to know that once you need me I am here. Once you need to talk, I am here. No awkwardness, no judgment, no patronising remarks, just myself, and my ears, ready to listen to your grouses, ready to say things as they are.

This is what real friendship is, to me. Not something that you need to be reminded of every single time, nor is it something that you need to physically commit to every week. It’s the conscious understanding that whatever happens, you have someone’s back, and someone has yours.

I’ll be here to support you, and that’s for sure.

 

Speak soon,

FH