Many people are afraid of being alone or lonely – there’s a difference here – or perhaps both. Being alone has the connotations of isolation and loss. We are constantly told we need something to feel complete; that surely being alone isn’t a choice. And yet here I am, my body as company, sitting in a gallery with nothing but my own thoughts as conversation.
At 11am I arrived at GOMA in celebration of their 10 year anniversary. The exhibitions are unreal, and although some people do not realise it, they take the artwork for granted. You cannot say you’ve truly seen a piece of art until you’ve read the reason behind why, what, how and who. Although we as individuals are entitled to interpret, connect and find our own meanings and messages in art, we must also respect it’s original state. There is always something more to a line, colour or letter.
And so I walked through two levels of organic, monumental, dramatic and geometric art – feeling things that were crafted and produced by the minds, hearts and hands of someone I don’t and will never know. With this little space I have I will tell you of one of my most loved installations. This one required no particular artist, no tools of construction and no period of time for completion. Instead, it required us as humans to leave a letter for those who would come after. Inside three tiny houses sat hundreds of envelopes, some addressed to specified people such as Kanye West or Martin Luther King, to categorised groups like the LGBT community and people who needed cheering up, or to a distant universal person such as her, dad or grandma. I left a letter of my own, but before I did I read some too. Among the many was a suicidal cry by an ELEVEN YEAR OLD girl, a love letter from a black lesbian woman and a slam comedy rap about Donald Trump. I cried in those three little houses because I knew that in this small city I live in, there was so many people that were really hurting. But I had to remember the notes that left positivity too, because at the same time in this small city I live in, there was so many people that were also really happy.
I then retreated to a cafe on the river where I watched the city show off to me with its impressive skyline and perfectly painted sky. I sat contempt in my personal space, my fingers dancing on the keyboard, my tongue licking the coffee foam off my spoon, my ears attuned to Gang of Youths in my left ear, and two ladies conversation in my right. Sometimes the universe also decides to make your situation a little more complicated because in approximately 30 minutes after sitting with nature I broke out in enormous insect bites. So now I not only looked like a “sad” girl sitting eating lunch alone, but instead I now looked like the “sad weird” girl who was rubbing ice all over her body and crying. Obviously this didn’t attract any attention…
However, even without the addition of vigorous itching and my body swelling like a balloon, people still watched me. When you’re alone people look at you as if you wear a sign that says vulnerability. Couples asked me whether I wanted a photo, the waitress asked me shyly if I was waiting on someone, the librarian asked me why on earth I’d spend my Sunday alone browsing book shelves. These didn’t bother me in the slightest.
Being on your own are moments that you should cherish, whether it’s driving in the car to work or lying in bed before slumber steals you. I am very much single in many aspects of my life: I am not in a relationship, I spend Saturday nights home alone, I venture off mostly on my own. I do not use people to fill my personality or life, I have them to add to my personality and life. Do not misunderstand me when I talk about solitude though – I equally love the loudness and presence of others. But in order to be comfortable with others, you need to be comfortable with not only your exterior but your inner self too.
So here is my challenge for the week. Embrace the time you have on this earth as also the time you have with yourself. Do something you’ve always wanted to do, but have never had the courage or motivation to. Go see a movie by yourself. Climb a mountain by yourself. Stay in on a weekend night dancing in sweat pants by yourself. It’s not sad, its solitude.
Dare to be alone.