April 11, 2014

It’s Not Being Alone That Makes Us Lonely . ~ Jenna Backus

desert highway

I recently took a much needed solo trip across the country.

By no means was it a drastic Eat, Pray, Love situation, but I’m beginning to believe that may be necessary for my soul’s own sanity.

I was 100 percent alone on this journey, partly because I strongly value my alone time, but mostly because I couldn’t find anyone to go with me and my flight voucher was about to expire.

Anyway, I am so thankful nobody joined me this time. While I am always grateful for good company, there is just so much more to learn about yourself and the world around you when it’s just you, a newspaper and a plate of foreign food at a table for one. Or just you, on top of a mountain after a rewarding hike, with nothing surrounding you but serenity. Or just you, and the vast ocean, and the only calls you hear are coming from mystical sea creatures.

Call me old fashioned, but feeling like a 70 year old retired woman felt fantastic.

I had always feared growing old, but I feared being alone even more.

Now, I’m starting to think it may not be so bad—for it is not the act of being alone that is scary, it is the act of actually feeling alone.

Not once on this vacation did I ever feel alone. In fact, it wasn’t until I got back, surrounded by old familiar faces that I love, where I felt the surprising, uncomfortable jolt of loneliness. And that is what has kept me up at night.

For a restless brain like mine, sleep is a high commodity. I treasure it more than most activities, but I treasure the nights I don’t have it the most—because that is when things start to happen. If we start to get too comfortable, we start to get bored, and we start to become our own worst enemy. At least that’s the case for me. I am constantly challenging myself to be something better, and like the great J.D. Salinger once wrote, “Sometimes I’m sick of not having the courage to be an absolute nobody. It’s exhausting.”

Now, I live a fine life.

My city is somewhere I am proud to call home, full of young open minds and plenty of places to entertain myself. I have more friends than I could have ever imagined, and a stable job in a field the matches my degree. But, my restless brain and I have always wanted something more. And it wasn’t until this trip that I realized how important it is to go after what you want—even if you have to go after it alone.

I realized I didn’t feel alone on this particular vacation because I was surrounded by inspiration – by people who live the dreams I yearn for every night. But when I got home, I realized I am fighting for my dream here alone, and to be completely honest, it’s a downright shitty feeling. I could continue channeling my inner yogi and just be present, and let it be, but unfortunately my morning mantras just won’t cut it anymore.

Life is too short to not wake up and be inspired by something, or someone, every day.

I whole-heartedly believe in either doing something with passion or not at all, although this may or may not result in what I like to call split personality syndrome. I seem to either care too much about something, or frankly don’t give a damn, and right now, in the current state I’m in, I truly don’t give a damn about much at all.

That’s not who I want to be. Nor is it who the world needs me to be.

We all owe the world our passion—and while we may initially be sharing our passions alone, I’m confident we will find many supporters along the way. Our lights will shine a little brighter and soon enough they will attract the best kind of company. Because we all know one thing—no one is attracted to a dimming light. But just because your light may be fading right where you stand, it doesn’t mean that you are stuck. Perhaps it means it’s time to refuel elsewhere. And the great thing about refueling, is that feeling alone is rarely a part of it.

My solo trip took me to a place where I envisioned my childhood dreams coming true. Who am I to stop myself from refueling there for good?

Do I want to move across the country by myself? Wouldn’t it be easier if I had someone who lived the same dream as me? Is it even possible without financial support from rich parents? What if I want to come back?

I can ask myself these questions all night, every night—but I will never get them answered until I start making a plan instead of excuses, and just do it. The one question I do know the answer to is this: If we never challenge ourselves, how do we grow? We don’t.

If I want to be a great writer, I need to give myself great material. My story will not stop here. I may be alone at first, but I will be more alive than ever. Not stagnant. Not bored. And certainly not lonely.

My dreams are big, and their coming reality will be the company I keep forever.

After all, a much better critic than myself wisely advised that we are put on this planet only once, and to limit ourselves to the familiar is a crime against our minds.

So let my mind sleep, alone in my bed, and take me to the place I have always dreamed of. We are about to embark on another great journey, and I can’t wait to see who we meet along the way.

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Apprentice Editor: Kimby Maxson/Editor: Catherine Monkman

Photo: Andrew Mylko (used with Permission)

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