Happiness – On Being Alone
Alone on the trail
Loneliness expresses the pain of being alone and solitude expresses the glory of being alone. ~ Paul Tillich
Inspiration for these posts comes from a lot of places. Recently an old friend contacted me and said that they had a friend who was considering hiking the Appalachian Trail. He asked me to reach out and see if I could be a source of information and support. I’ve done this for a number of folks attempting a thru-hike, I really enjoy doing this. I both get to be helpful, make a new friend and get to relive through them my time on the trail. The most recent person I did this with shares a lot of similarities with me and likely the reason my other friend asked me to reach out. They are around my age, single, a definite individual and it goes without saying since they were attempting an AT thru-hike, adventurous.
Recently they posted a little thought to the universe about being alone, they’re tired of it. They are tired of going to dinner alone, traveling alone, hiking alone, of seeing movies alone both at theaters and at home curled up on the couch. I didn’t respond to the post, but I get it. So tonight when I sat down to do my Sunday night post it hit me as something worth writing about for a lot of reasons.
I have spent most of my adult life alone, to those who know me well that really isn’t a shock. I’ve never been a settled person, a good friend in college used to say the song the Wanderer by Dion really made him think about me. I’m someone who has always had a desire to travel, as a kid when people asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, my answer was always not here. Yes, I was even a smart-ass as a little kid.
People look at me and they see someone who has a successful career, who has traveled the world, I’m intelligent, well spoken and a decent human being. Heck, and according to my granny, I’m a damn good-looking man. So people often wonder why I’m not married. I’ve had other people in my life, confused by my wandering, ask me what I am running from. Other people have assumed I have a fear of commitment. None of those really explain the big question folks have about me.
Why am I alone?
Probably the first and most important thing is that being married was never something on my life list. Not a box I needed to check off of that list. I really love kids, my nieces and nephews are incredibly dear to me, I had always hoped to be a father, always thought I would have been a good one. I was always a little less sure about the idea of being married. Honestly, although I know some people who have great ones, a see a lot of unhappy ones. But that has never left me opposed to the idea, if the situation was right. I have been in love, really, deeply in love three times where I thought there was a chance for something special to work out. But it didn’t, sometimes it was that the person turned out to not be who I thought they were, usually for me it was terrible timing.
Of course I’m a tough ticket, I’m an utterly curious person and the reason that makes me a tough ticket is that it is that curiosity that drives my incessant need for travel and new experiences. So if someone is going to be with me, they need to be of a similar mind, and have a willingness to see far enough out the box to build a life that fulfills that. There are not a lot of people who fit that bill.
As you get older and life gets more established, dating becomes a really difficult thing. When you’re in college there are a lot of people to meet who are around your age and at a similar point in their lives. Then you move into the workforce and there are some people your age but more who are older, married, settled, your options for dating, hell even for friendships begin to diminish. For me it was more extreme, by the time I finally left grad school and was working full-time I was 38, the others in a similar position were in their twenties, not 15 years on from that point, the other single people in the same situation are still in their 20s. I’m not complaining, I’m good with the decisions I’ve made and the path my life has taken, just stating reality. Of course it doesn’t help that I’m also a pretty strong introvert.
Rev Kane on his first day on the Appalachian Trail
I don’t like people
This statement usually catches people off guard as they see me as a fairly social individual. The thing is, most people usually don’t understand what being an introvert really is all about. Introverts are people who gain energy from time alone, more importantly we get drained by spending time with people in social situations. Now, a lot of times that pairs up with people who are also uncomfortable in social situations, so that’s where the stereotype that introverts are socially awkward comes from. However that’s not me, I’m social but being social absolutely wears me out. I’m someone who far prefers one on one deep conversations to social situations and small talk. Doing small talk drains my energy at an incredible pace and I find it incredibly boring. As such I’m not the biggest fan of people, in general they drain me.
On being alone
So given that I’m not driven to be married, that my romantic timing has been terrible, that I’m a tough ticket and that I live an unconventional life it is not particularly a shock that at nearly 54 I find myself alone. Now I know some of my friends and family might argue the point that I’m alone, and I get that, I have great people in my life. But because of my lifestyle those people are spread all across the country, heck, all across the world. So like my new friend posted on Facebook, although I enjoy solitude, hiking, going to the movies, shopping, etc…alone. At times, I too am tired of going to dinner alone, taking vacations alone, more importantly not having someone to sit and talk to at night. Of course, I’m not even sure I could live that life, I’m incredibly set in my ways, my high need for solitude has always been a bit of a barrier for others. But of course, that’s what the “right” person is all about, someone who fits with who you are and what you need, while being that for them. Sure, there’s always going to be some give and take, things will never be perfect, but I’m not willing to go there unless I think the situation would be pretty special, who I am is not something I willing to comprise. If that position means I live my entire life alone so be it.
A slower pace of life can make you happy
Being alone is not terrible
Being alone is not terrible, sure there are times when you wish you didn’t have to do some things alone. But there is a lot of freedom. I’ve felt the downside a lot lately as I’ve been going through some medical procedures and you need a driver. Many of you have someone who you automatically turn to in those situations, I don’t. But I also have a level of freedom most people dream about. As an introvert, I’m able to easily get the space and solitude I need for my own mental health and the life I lead (alone as I may be) has brought me to a place of happiness. A place where I’m able to share what I’ve learned and try to help others live a happy life as well. I’ve had a really great life, sure it’s been an absolute roller-coaster, I’ve had more than my share of pain and tragedy, mistakes that I have and still pay for, but I’ve also been very fortunate. I’ve worked hard, been able to travel the world, experience things many people never will, I’ve been blessed to have some really amazing people to call my selected family. And hopefully, I have a long way to go and a lot more to do. And hopefully, sharing some of it will help you have happy days as well my friends. ~ Rev Kane
A little post-script to the post, my favorite writer’s take on being alone.
the flesh covers the bone
and they put a mind
in there and
sometimes a soul,
and the women break
vases against the walls
and the men drink too
and nobody finds the
crawling in and out
the bone and the
for more than
there’s no chance
we are all trapped
by a singular
nobody ever finds
the city dumps fill
the junkyards fill
the madhouses fill
the hospitals fill
the graveyards fill