I had never noticed myself as an actual loner until I was in college. I had lunch by myself, organized trips to classes on my own, finished my essays in my bedroom. My best friend has always been one, or two, or three. But I rarely, so rarely ever feel alone.
I was one of those invisible students in your class. I retreated to books, my desk, or my own dreams during the short breaks. Even when in conversations with my ladies, I was usually being the slowest one because my mind was always halfway to Neptune.
Ok, let me step back a little bit. I did feel alone during my 17 years living in Jakarta, feeling slightly isolated and not understood. Rebecca Solnit built a fort with her books, a world where she allows herself to live and breathe freely. I did, too. With books, comics, movies, whatever.
It was in San Francisco, 2010, that I began to connect solitude with liberation, walking alone as a freedom, being alone as rejuvenation. Perhaps it is the gorgeous San Francisco city. But I’ve also braved Minnesota winter alone and I never complained.
Back then I had music on my ears all the time. The isolation is beyond comforting. To be able to walk on a real pavement while also walking on a cotton-candy dreamy world, that’s the real life for me.
Walking in itself is a kind of meditation. But being alone can mean two things: daydreaming or boredom, the two unlikely cousins. Daydreaming is an act of wishful thinking or imagining, boredom is mindlessly watching the screen in your mind, no question, nothing. Both flourish in the quiet worlds and both are critical to creative thinking.
“The creative writer does the same as the child at play. He creates a world of phantasy which he takes very seriously – that is, which he invests with large amounts of emotion,” said Sigmund Freud. Unsurprisingly, research suggests that a toddler should be left bored, facing his own disgruntlement at his own pace, not being left with gadgets.
As a child of the early 90s, I grew up in a nice balance of technology and no technology. I spent my early days performing a one-woman show, pretending I’m someone cool. But I also had my time spending hours playing The Sims or browsing YouTube for the next hidden gem songs. In fact, a proper silence is needed to filter out Internet’s noise. From blogs to Spotify, these are the little ornaments that decorate our little world, if we filter them out wisely.
So why is it that schools and extracurricular activities tend to design environment to be highly social? The little kid me would ask: so what do we do with these things in our mind? Is it an excess we need to throw out, a waste? They sure not. They are just as real as our hands. They are waiting to manifest. So give some space and leave people alone.