The art of being alone

At night and into the early morning, the view from Hogle Hall at Westminster College is quiet. For junior political science major Cozy Huggins, the solitude allows time for self-reflection. Photo by Cozy Huggins

At night and into the early morning, the view from Hogle Hall at Westminster College is quiet. For junior political science major Cozy Huggins, the solitude allows time for self-reflection. Photo by Cozy Huggins

It’s 4:51 a.m. (to be precise), and I can’t sleep.

Underneath a mound of blankets and facing away from the sounds of 1300 East, I feel relatively content. The faces of my family, friends and attractive German soccer players stare down at me from photos plastered on my uncomfortably white wall. It’s like they’re all asking me, ‘What are you so afraid of?’

Well, photographs, if you must know, I am alone.

I’ve fallen in love with 5 a.m.—too early for the day to begin but still cold enough to be lonely. My goal is to do a better job of being alone, and this is my time for practice, to invite solitude in and try to be content with it. Some days this is easier than others, wrought with a special kind of self loathing that seems almost cruel but necessary.

You see, I’m an intense person, and if I care about you, love you or enjoy your company, I do so loudly and with affirmed hopefulness. I will sacrifice time, energy, emotional labor, fear of the dark (among other things), text messages, and sleep to be by your side. Not to say that these things are always given away without repayment, as I have wonderful friends in my life who go the extra mile for and more for me, but, at times I will give and assume only the best until the most damning evidence is presented to the contrary.

People have taken from me in ways not mutually beneficial by any means, and I am left feeling raw and betrayed. It’s a curious thing to not be sure if it’s someone’s company that is enjoyable or the ways they made me hate the world a bit more. It’s a comfortable place to operate, assuming the worst of intentions and the people behind them—safe, but incredibly exhausting and unsustainable.

I’ve always been the type of person to take situations and circumstances in stride. Recently, this has also meant accepting what life takes out of me and some difficult truths about myself revealed in the process. In the face of impossibility is change. For better or worse, the power is left in the individual to pick up the pieces and decide where everything fits.

At 4:53 a.m., I am sure now is the time to stop disappearing into people, to stop using another person as a mirror to mask my own insecurities and unsettled anxieties and to be comfortable enough to trust myself.

I became aware of the aforementioned intensity of caring one night after I collapsed on my bed, utterly exhausted in the worst way, and realized there was no more love to give. I was out. It was unfair for anyone to ask for more. For the first time in recollection, I was no longer defined by the things other people offered me (in friendship and perspective) and though a lot of who I am is certainly friends and their guidance, it’s me too.

My worth is not definable by the opinions and standards of other people. I had begun to feel like some people in my life merely tolerated my presence in spite of a host of qualities which I sought to banish rather than entertaining the idea that I was enough because of these qualities and more.

Transformation is certainly an ongoing process that I bumble through on a daily basis. However, there are some undeniable truths to feeling like one deserves beautiful things without any prior qualifying statement other than because beautiful things are nice to have. I wonder if the reason solitude scares me is because deep down, at some level I am not entirely comfortable operating at, I worry that I am not enough. Maybe I’m not and maybe that hurts more then I’d like to admit. But perhaps that’s exactly what contentment is hiding behind—inadequacies that make one flawed in the best ways.

Be alone. Be so alone that you let go and never run from it again. Be brave. Be so brave that nothing can impede your victory. Be afraid. Be so afraid that you reach the precipice of giving up. Be hopeful. Be so hopeful that you recognize when you cannot.

I need people. We all do. But I need me, too.