RELATIONSHIPS contribute to the making of one’s personality. A person cannot shy away from interactions because he risks not becoming whole. By nature humans are social beings.

There was a time in my life when I thought being alone could be the worst possible fate. Sometimes, I still think that way. But lately I have come to realize that I have the wrong notion about what “being alone” means.

Being alone, from my previous point of view, meant having no friends and no sense of togetherness, keeping myself isolated from society. The person who is alone may opt to live this way, or he may be driven or ostracized into this kind of life by other people.

As a result, that person has no interest in other people, or at least in other people’s stories or ideas. He keeps to himself, and desires to be untouched by others. He is not necessarily one of the hermits we read about, living in the mountains and sporting long beards. In this day and age, this sort of people are but ordinary men and women who keep to themselves, speak little, and spend their time just thinking about the world along with everything else.

This, after a considerable amount of reflection, suddenly seemed ridiculous. Why would anyone desire to stay away when others could give life and meaning to that stoic existence? Is it not true that other people contribute to the makings of your personality, whether you are conscious of it or not? Why would they be content to just thinking without doing anything? What would you be living for, then, if you have only yourself to think about? Didn’t these people ever get lonely? John Milton said, “In solitude, what happiness? Who can enjoy alone, or, all enjoying, what contentment find?” These people must have lost touch with the universe a long time ago.

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I remember the novel To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee. In it, three curious children – Jem, Scout, and Dill- always wondered why their neighbor, Arthur Radley (or Boo Radley, as they called him) never went out of his house. They would spend their vacations devising plans to make him come out. They also made up stories about how he would look like and what he would do if he got out of the house. But no matter what they did, Boo would not come out.

Like the three children, I could not comprehend why Boo would not come out. It is so senseless for someone to stay locked up when there is so much beauty to see and so many people to meet beyond the walls that he put up around himself. As Samuel Johnson once said, “To live without feeling or exciting sympathy, to be fortunate without adding to the felicity of others, or afflicted without tasting the balm of pity, is a state more gloomy than solitude; it is not retreat but exclusion from mankind.”

Not until I learned the value of solitude myself did I realize that these “poor” people, who choose to live separately from the hustle and bustle of this restless world, were probably the ones who understood it and its people the most.

By some quirk of fate, I have been made to see the beauty in spending time with oneself. There were instances when, studying (or rather cramming) for an exam or staying up late to finish a project, I had too much coffee and by the time my body screamed for sleep, the unwieldy caffeine would set in. Or, for no reason at all, whether at home or in some other place, I would be roused from sleep at two or three in the morning and that would be the end of sleep for me¯ for that day, at least.

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It is in these hours when I do my best thinking. I get to appreciate the silence of the house, how the world seems to be turning in a gentler mode to avoid rousing tired souls from their slumber, how soft everybody’s breathing is as they live in a dream for a few stolen hours. This dream-like atmosphere gives me a soothing calm that can clear my mind enough to think of the things I had no time for during the day. Problems are solved, questions answered, stories are relayed in the mind or on paper during these moments.

Or maybe it’s just the coffee.

Anyway, this is the kind of “being alone” that I have learned to embrace. In these precious and unguarded moments, I can be anyone I want to be, can create little fantasies that blossom into big dreams. This is the kind of solitude that gives a person the chance to peek inside himself until he reaches the depth of his soul. It is in these opportunities that one can really get to know oneself; it is a chance to walk the road of self-discovery. You may be surprised by what you see.

From this, I no longer pity those who choose to live their lives at a certain distance. They have learned what is important, what things in this world should rightfully be given that precious time of day. They have learned that there are more valuable things to dwell on than the superficialities which we call “the latest craze” and “the must-haves.” And who can blame them? They just want to steer clear from mechanically catching buses, working from 9 to 5, then coming home dog-tired. Or from a life of spending money on trivial pursuits. They want no part of what a character from a certain teen flick called “meaningless, consumer-driven lives.”

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If there are people who do not want to partake of what the vast majority feed on these days, look a little closer. There must be something wrong. And they are the people who are more or less able to pinpoint the flaws.

Before, I wondered if these people ever got lonely, until one day when I was playing my guitar and flipping through a song magazine. I came upon a short quote: “People can be alone but not lonely. There is a difference, you see. Being alone is because that’s what you want. Being lonely is being alone and not wanting to be.”

I guess that answers my question.

The world is so unsteady these days. I do not wish to lose faith in mankind, but it is so difficult to determine whom to trust, which choices to take, or which roads to travel. It is refreshing to just break away for a while and reflect.

Perhaps, a little time to yourself could give you an insight on how you have been living your life¯ not just in a spiritual sense, but emotionally and intellectually as well. Who knows, what you see in your reflections might give you a push in the right direction.

Solitude has become my fire exit, my escape when the earth’s lopsided spinning saps me of my strength and sense of objectivity. Now, I know being alone is nothing to be afraid of, nor is it a cause for loneliness. Being alone can give you experiences that years of living with people¯ most of whom are not real anyway¯ would never give you.

Indeed, it does give me time for a reality check; a time-out from the game, you could call it.

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