I used to think I could get used to being alone. Like many writers who have come before me I’m an introvert, a shy introvert at that. I thrive on alone time, on being able to have some solitude to think and dream. I regain my energy, bundle it all up to ready myself for my next social interaction. I used to dream of going and living in a little house in the country by myself, or building a little cabin in some abandoned woods. There was something so beautiful in that, but I have since grown out of such ideas.
When I was younger there was a lot of hope for me in the fact that other writers often had been shy or introverted like me. One of my earliest introductions to a writer from the past was a children’s book called Emily, given to me thanks to my name. The book detailed the story of a little girl discovering her neighbor who hid upstairs where no one could see her. Complete with beautiful illustrations the book was of course the tale of Emily Dickinson, the brilliant poet who spent much of her time locked away in her house and was only discovered and published (at least to a great extent) postmortem.
As a young girl I often struggled to make friends and to feel like I fit in. I often spent lunches in elementary school reading a book rather than playing on the playground, and in junior high I spent most breaks alone in classrooms or the library scribbling away at a new story idea. There were parts of me that liked having that alone time, but other parts of me that hated it. There is a big difference between isolated loneliness and solitary loneliness. One involves being alone in a place with no people around, the other involves being alone in a crowd. As a young person I always thought I preferred isolated and despised solitary. I have since found that I don’t really like either…not as much as I think I’d like.
College was a challenge for me. My normal high school routine had involved going home and tucking myself away in my bedroom to do homework before eating dinner, watching some television and going to bed. I spent a large part of my time alone, rarely choosing to see friends outside of school. But in college I was forced to be with people all the time, never able to truly find a place to be alone. It was troubling for me and I spent a good deal of time just shut up in my room to try to compensate for the sudden overwhelming feeling of never being quite alone. My roommate was more social than me and she often mentioned people not knowing who I was in spite of living in the same dorm. I can still distinctly remember sitting in the lobby one rare day and talking with a young man who was surprised to find out who my roommate was. I put on a wry smile and said, “yep, I’m the reclusive roommate. Nice to meet you.”
Two more years of college had me adjusting a bit more. After sharing two rooms and a bathroom with four people and then moving to a six person apartment, I found myself acclimating more to the idea of being around people on a day to day basis, never quite having a feeling of being alone as I used to. I still played up my introvertedness, still made sure people knew that I had a 90% preference for it and needed to get alone sometimes. But I had changed since high school and had become more aware that while I liked gaining energy, never having anyone to use it with was awful.
Unfortunately, my study abroad starts later than most American school sessions, so I have yet to get back to school and have instead had a six week period of sitting at my parents home waiting to get back to school. While certainly nice in some respects, this period has taught me how much I could never be Emily Dickinson, no matter how much I used to feel I related to her as a child.
I sit alone at home, and though I find time to write, read, waste time on facebook, there is a part of me that pines for human interaction. It is so bizarre for me to not be able to come out of my room and find people there, so strange to not at least have a library or cafeteria where I could go find friends to eat meals with. I miss interaction, I miss having people to pour my ever growing wasted energy into.
So, while I shall forever be an introvert, I can never be a complete recluse or hermit or any of the things I used to dream of as a child. I love people too much. I love life and conversation. I cannot share it merely with dead authors and empty lifeless pages. For while we try our best as authors to create characters that seem almost real, we can never truly give the joy of friendship, the amazing gift of love, the delight of having another human beside you who understands.
I shall never be Dickinson, and while part of me is saddened to no longer have this childhood idea, part of me is joyful in knowing that I shall never lock myself away.
Less than two weeks of loneliness left. I only hope I shall survive.
Since so few answer my questions I’ll just leave this post open ended. Please feel free to comment if you have any thoughts.