I have always been independent—in a way.
My mum loves to tell the story of how when I was four years old, sitting on the back seat of a trail-a-bike—probably not pedaling much at all—she asked me:
“Annabelle, what do you want to be when you grow up?”
“An artist. Who lives on a farm.”
“Oh wow, a farm! That’s a lot of work.”
“The farmer will do it.”
(She most likely nearly crashed the bike laughing at this point, but who knows, I was four)
“So can I come live with you on your farm?”
“No, but you can come visit.”
So yes, even at four, I was independent, and perhaps a bit delusional.
But independence has never meant I have been comfortable actually being alone. There’s a difference here. I was always fine to do things on my own, but oh no, don’t you dare leave me in a house alone. I will force you to leave the family dog with me and probably not leave the couch for a week out of crippling fear.
Yes, a year ago I panicked at the thought of even one day alone. I just did not let it happen. I was never even sure of what I was afraid of… but in the end it’s all the same. Fear is fear, and fear is limiting.
So how did I end up finishing my second year of university to go spend a month on a little island in Thailand solo? Somewhere completely unknown to me?
Well, I have learned that life has these funny, funny little ways of giving us exactly what we need. Even if we don’t know that’s true at the time.
What I needed? To be completely alone.
So I found myself on an island. In Thailand. And there I was. And I had worked to put myself there. And I was miserable.
Traveling solo seemed like the adventure of a lifetime, filled with magic and wonder and rainbows. And it was magical, and there were rainbows, but it was also the most raw, real, terrifying thing I have ever done.
I quickly realized that the scariest thing about traveling on my own had nothing to do with my destination and everything to do with my mind. For the first time in my 20 years of living I was completely alone; stuck with me, myself and I. Alone with my thoughts. Every emotion was amplified as if screamed through a megaphone in my chest. A tinge of loneliness on a Sunday would have me in a pile on the floor, crying my eyes out by Monday. Every thought was loud and clear for me to become aware of. And what I was becoming aware of was not pretty.
I was forced to look—really look—at how my clinging to the past was affecting my own life and how I connected with others. I was driving people away and blocking people out. I needed lonesomeness so I could see this clearly. So of course life served up a big fat helping and asked me to chew. So I chewed. I had no option of resisting the bad tastes that would come up. I just kept hoping the aftertaste would be sweet.
I had been waiting my whole life to be happy and it took being miserable in paradise to face up to my own bullshit beliefs, that I always needed to be somewhere that I was not or that life should be a certain way.
Life should not be any way at all. Life just is.
I was fed up with the restlessness, the unhappiness and the self-created suffering. My only option was to surrender to the lonesomeness. To not let it define me, overtake me. To embrace life in the moment—and for the first time, to follow love. To really open up, to connect and to let go. To surrender. There was nowhere to hide and nowhere to turn except inside. It was time to evolve.
And I did. I cried, I let go and I cried and let go some more. I shed it all, and what I was left with, was the most beautiful thing.
It took a lot of tears, a lot of guidance and a hell of a lot of persistence, but I found my center. I found peace.
It took me going off on my own to get into myself, but at the end of the day, it does not matter how you do it as long as you do. Get into you, let yourself be alone. Scratch at your very core until you find the scariest, darkest places and have the courage to stay. Stay until you realize that life is happening in this moment. If it does not look perfect then you are not really looking.
So go be alone.
Because the funny, silly thing is, as soon you are comfortable being alone, you will find that you never are.
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Assistant Ed: Gabriela Magana/Ed: Sara Crolick