Cinque Terre, Italy + Thoughts on loneliness

 

It felt surreal to visit Cinque Terre in person after months of stalking pictures on travel blogs. Again, so impressed with Italians and their eye for design. Even in the small towns that line the coast, they manage to make each alley look picturesque. We visited Riomaggiore and Manarola in the Cinque Terre region. It was so nice because they were uncongested and had easily accessible hiking paths to get fantastic views. 

I wonder when I'll be back to see the three other coast cities, with who I'll be with and what I'll be doing with my life in that moment. 

On a side note, I am presently sitting on a bench, along the main pathway of McGill from the Roddick Gates to the Arts building. I feel like that cliché university student who looks like they are working on a super important thesis on their Mac, with a $4 latte in hand. Kinda hating myself. lol but I discovered that the wifi reaches outside, so WIN. 

Aight, I decided that I want to share my thoughts on a "heavier" subject: loneliness. 

Firstly, I want to say that I don't think loneliness should be thought of in a negative or depressing manner. I see it as a feeling that everyone is familiar with, and is a part of daily life. But because loneliness is associated with depression, being anti-social, etc, people don't often talk about it. 

I know that a lot of people my age must feel the same way I do, as so many of us are going through transition periods. I want to talk about how I learned to embrace loneliness, and how changing my perspective on it has made me a happier person. 

Let me just start with a disclaimer before anyone gets all riled up. Even though everyone feels lonely at times, people all experience it on different levels, based on what is going on in their personal lives. So, my little schpeel is just based on my own circumstance, as a person who is growing up and learning what it means to be an individual. So, please don't pull a "why would you feel lonely when your life looks great" lecture on me. 

Loneliness is a word that we throw around pretty often, but is hard to grasp its full meaning in words alone. A quick google search defines it as "sadness because one has no friends or company," but I think the real-life definition is quite the opposite. Loneliness is magnified when you DO have friends and company, but somehow still feel empty on the inside. It's that old "lonely in a crowd" paradox. 

I believe that feeling lonely is a natural part of growing up. When you're young and easily excitable, external joys are enough to fill you up. But as time passes, and more "serious" things happen, feeling 100% happy becomes harder. So even after going to a party with all of your friends, you can come back home and feel sad all over again. As I get more mature, I realize that external joys only make me feel happy during the time when it's happening, but the feeling does not last after the event is over and friends part ways.  

I caught myself feeling lonely and pitying myself often, especially during the first semester. And then, I felt even worse because there wasn't a solid reason that I could blame for feeling this way. I have great friends and family, I enjoy my classes, really nothing dramatic going on in my personal life... so why was I feeling so empty on the inside? (such a typical gen Y dilemma lol) 

With the help of my mom, I came to understand that it was because I saw loneliness to be a problem that I needed to get rid of, rather than something I should embrace. 

Which is a weird concept, because loneliness is bad, right? 

No, not at all. You should treat loneliness as one of your closest friends that you should pay attention to and nurture. We spend so much time nurturing happiness and doing everything possible to make sure happiness is doing well, that loneliness is shoved in a corner and covered with a blanket. But it's always there, that eyesore in the corner that you never get around to fixing up. 

I went on a conscious quest to find what it is that I can do to nurture and embrace loneliness. Things that you can do 100% alone, not depending on anyone else's schedule and can be done wherever you are in the world. 

This is where it gets kinda magical. By focusing solely on what I want to do, and actually taking the time to reflect on how I feel after doing the activity, I learned so much about my own self. Firstly, I've always thought of myself as an extrovert but it turns out that I actually feel more energized after being on my own for a bit. I found my own taste in music, a manageable work out routine, cleaning rituals, and other simple activities I can do alone that somehow make me feel put together on the inside. This whole process also made me realize the core reason as to why I blog: my obsession with nice aesthetics. Just looking at pretty things, like nice style or interior design, make me happy. This was actually a great realization for me, to know the underlying reason why I enjoy stalking instagram so much hehe. 

I want to emphasize how self-fulfilling activities should not be monumental events like volunteering in Papua New Guinea (first country that came into mind for some reason) or training for a triathlon. They should be small, simple actions that can be done in daily life. Because life is 99% boring, mundane activities. It's all about finding small routines that make the boring and mundane enjoyable, solely for your own sake. 

I don't know how to say this in a non-incestual way, but embracing loneliness is like being in a relationship with yourself. I now prioritize my own schedule and to-do list before anyone. If I'm feeling down, I stop myself from reaching out to someone right away to go brunch or something, to get that hit of temporary distraction. I instead take the time to figure it out myself, and then I will reach out to someone. But your first point of contact should be yourself. There's really only so much other people can do, because at the end of the day, your feelings are not theirs. 

This does not mean that I have cured myself of ever feeling lonely again. Because as a human, it's only natural to feel the need to be with others. Otherwise, why would people want to fall in love, get married, and start families? It's just that I now fully embrace the fact that loneliness is a natural and beautiful feeling on its own, that should not be avoided and ignored by trying to get other people to fill the void for you.

It's going to be a life-long a journey to become my own best friend. But like any relationship, the best ones grow with time. 

xo, Dahye