Being surrounded by laughter, by love and by people is a wonderful thing.
It’s a comfort to be cocooned in the security blanket that being one of two or part of a group affords. Indeed, sometimes you just want to be in the midst of the hubbub, in the thick of it with a gaggle of friends or spending time with your significant other. I don’t underestimate just how important it is to develop the ability to interact socially with peers, with work colleagues, with family. In a world where social networking and technology has eroded the necessity of physical mediums of communication, I often remind myself when sitting across from the Other Half and engaging in intense conversation, or walking arm-in-arm with Nashwa, that I am fortunate to have people around me that I love and that love me in return and on whom I can rely should something particularly nasty befall me.
However, and this is a huge however, as time has worn on, I have become more aware of just how important it is to learn to be alone. To be comfortable with your own company. To be happy by yourself.
I’ve always been somewhat of an introvert. As a child, I’d prefer to spend hours scribbling stories in a blank medical journal passed to me by my dad than to be outside with the laughing and screaming children on whichever street we were living. I’m under no illusions as to why that was; we moved around a lot, first from country to country and then from city to city and within those cities, from school to school. It meant being thrust into situations where I knew nobody and could only rely on an occasional protective pat on the head from Big Bro who took to new environments like a fish to water. I’m also more than certain that my ability and desire to retreat into my own headspace had a lot to do with being a shy young black girl in schools where the only other black face was that of my older brother. It’s not that I was without friends; I just took a little longer to make them and spent a little while weeding out the wheat from the chaff. In times of solitude, I learned to be content with just me, myself and I for company.
As I have grown, I have stepped out of my shell enough to spend hours, days and sometimes even weeks in the company of others. Friends mean the world to me; family, even when they use their ability to grate on my nerves to their full extent, is priceless and time with the Other Half is some of my most cherished and precious. That being said, I have made sure that I have regained and reaffirmed my ability to be alone. In times gone, as I became acclimatised to being around people almost constantly, I began to crave that interaction and then to depend on it. I became at odds with what it meant to be by myself and to be at ease when there was nobody else around. And of course, when friends moved or we grew apart, when relationships broke down and the threat of being seulement became a reality, I lost it a little.
I had to go back to life’s drawing board. I had to rediscover myself. And when I did, I came to know that not only can alone time be a pleasurable experience, it is also a necessary one. Everybody needs time to alight the train that is life and take a break as it rushes headlong. We all need a break from being entertaining, funny, open and alert. Sometimes we need to be face-to-face with our emotions and our thoughts without the buffer of friends, family and significant others. We need to see things without the rose-coloured glasses that welcome distractions provide. Other times we just need to unwind; to read a few chapters of that book, to spend a evening beneath the covers with only a film for company.
I have learned that in the times when I am by myself, my thoughts are clearest, my work, most efficient and my happiness is undiminished. I think back on those days when the thought of a few nights by myself were almost crippling and I can’t help but smile. Now? Well now I find that I am happier, more whole person because I am allowed and have allowed myself the option of taking a personal aside now and again to get back in touch with who I truly am. And has it damaged me? On the contrary. I love harder because I allow myself to miss those that are important to me; I am infinitely more coherent because I give myself a break from churning out the jokes, the humorous ripostes, charming stories and sound advice and am altogether.
Will I ever completely sacrifice the time I spend with the Other Half? Not even if you paid me. Will I ever feel the need to curtail the time I do spend with my friends or family? Never in life. But I will continue learning to love myself, learning to love my company and learning to be alone.
You ought to try it.
In other news, London is about to be brought to its knees by yet another Tube strike. I am so incensed I can barely speak. I just don’t understand how, in a recession, people can have the gall to start whining about one of the cushiest jobs in London life. Now the entire city will be limited to buses and overground trains in order to commute and I for one, owner of two dodgy knees, will have to try and find my way to and from work tomorrow, which will mean an additional 4+ hours being added to my roundtrip. This type of brazen selfishness will never cease to amaze me.
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Stereo. 20-something aspiring bon vivant. London based. Exceptionally Nigerian. Partial to snark. My default setting is "wry". Jeans and blazers are my uniform. Landlady. Speed reader, tuneless singer, hoarder of words, drinker of Schloer; I am suspicious of most people, have zero tolerance for tomfoolery, have a vast DVD collection, worship at the altar of Al Green, own too many bottles of nail polish, have small eyes, small ears and giant hair and owe approximately 86% of my awesome to the Parents Typewriter.
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