Solitude is cool, loneliness is not

You don’t know what you have until it’s gone. Then you miss it. But you can also learn something along the way.

This year is the first that I am living alone, in a tiny studio flat in London. I’m trying to decide whether I like it. On balance, I think not. Having my own space is fantastic – I value seclusion more than most – but only when the seclusion can be suspended on demand. If you’ve ever had to move alone to a new city, you will know that social interactions with people whom you’ve only recently met don’t work like this. I do appreciate the peace especially after a long day at uni, but those only come twice a week, now. As usual, I want to have my cake and eat it.

At home, growing up, I could wander around the house to see what my parents and brother were up to, and school provided at least a minimum of social interaction with non-family members. As an undergrad, I lived in college for two years and in student housing with friends for another. This really was the best of both worlds: my room was my own, but I could count on having friends around at meal times and we would schedule social study breaks. I never hung out with the people on my course, but housemates and university societies kept me more than socially active.

Now, I sometimes go a whole day without speaking to anyone face-to-face. Don’t feel too sorry for me – I’m in a fantastic relationship and my life is pretty great – I’m just pointing this out as an annoying realisation of the cost of privacy. Small spells of isolation are not the end of the world, but over time, they can be pretty draining. I have discovered, through experience, why Sims have a ‘social’ meter on their needs tab. (A feature that mystified me as a child – especially the way it would completely replenish by the magic of WooHoo.)

Sims needs

It’s actually rather profound stuff. We need other people. We’re just not built to be alone for too long. So, even if I have plenty of work that can be done from home, I try not to let a day go by when I don’t leave my flat at some point. When social interactions can’t be arranged, there are a few alternatives. Skype is God’s gift to millennials, but I find that I don’t make the time for it as often as I could. More often, it’s exercise that I turn to. A brisk run is like an orgasm for the endocrine system. Some days, brief conversations with strangers (say, in the supermarket) become valuable interactions! Try not to judge me, I promise this is not as sad as it sounds.

The truth is, I am often too busy to justify the vast investments of time required for short socials in London (this place is bloody huge), so I only set aside the hours when I think it will be worth it. I know, I’m the worst. My horribly calculating brain has begun to treat social time as a transaction, only to be carried out after careful cost-benefit analysis. I also confess that, at this point in my life, meeting new people is an effort, time spent getting to know acquaintances, an investment.

The problem is compounded by my fondness of solitude, or perhaps of the industriousness that comes of it. And I realise that I am starting to sound like a grinchy hermit who chooses to ignore social gatherings by convincing himself that there are important tasks to complete alone. But I’m not too antisocial when my coursework pressure ebbs, I promise! I like going out as much as the next person, but at times there just really isn’t much going on that I can go to. Anwyay, next year I’m aiming for housemates. I’m picky about sharing living space with others – but, as I said, it’s measured on balance, innit?

 

Something to look forward to

In my short experience, life is all about anticipation.

Dread before impending doom is usually worse than “doom” itself. In fact, emotional build-up to most anticipated moments is stronger than feelings on the day (anyone who has been in a race knows this). Luckily, this also means that happiness can stretch for weeks before a point in time we look forward to!

Remember this as a strategy for life – and plan accordingly. Nice as it is to be pleasantly surprised by unexpected events, scattering nuggets of happiness into your calendar can make days much more enjoyable. Anything from booking tickets to a play to simply planning on watching TV in the evening can help break up your time into more fulfilling, pleasant and productive modules.

I have been called a control freak in the past, but this has nothing to do with my planning obsession. It is simply a way of dealing with routine by exploiting that quirk of the human brain that allows us to savour emotions from the future so realistically.

So, what are you looking forward to?

The cameelious hump

Have you ever felt so sick of being unproductive that you wanted to curl up and implode? Of course you have. I call them “amoeba” moments, because at those times I wish I was an amoeba – but that might just be me.

There are a number of ways in which you may find yourself at this unpleasant state. Waking up to a blank day (that is, one for which you have no plans) or failing to carry out scheduled tasks in the wake of procrastination can both induce such horrid despair. Spending too long indoors has a similar effect. And, of course, prolonged spans of unsuccessful study are known to drain every student’s soul.

The causes may vary, but the symptoms do not. Universal, and impossible to miss: the grouchy, grumpy outward disposition coupled to that internal sense of distress and desperation. Know what I’m talking about? Enter the hump. The cameelious hump. The hump that is black and blue. All across the globe, people are growing and, with varying degrees of success, shedding, humps daily. Rather than attempt to explain, I shall relay the words of Rudyard Kipling, author of this uncannily insightful allegory:

The Camel’s hump is an ugly lump 
Which well you may see at the Zoo;
But uglier yet is the hump we get 
From having too little to do. Continue reading “The cameelious hump”