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Being Alone Does Not Equal Lonely

Updated: Aug 29, 2021

“You’re going alone?”

“I’m worried about you being by yourself.”

“Won’t you get lonely?”

These are some responses I’ve gotten when I’ve told people about my plan to go on a solo digital nomad journey. It’s made me think a lot about the concept of being alone and other peoples' perception that being alone means being lonely. When I was in my 20’s, I surrounded myself with people. I lived at Mansfield, the nickname we gave two houses on Mansfield Avenue in Hollywood. It started with five girls in a Craftsman bungalow on a street where I once saw a hooker get thrown out of car topless. (Completely unfazed, she simply stood up straight in her high heels and strutted up to Sunset Boulevard.) When so many people kept moving from the east coast, we rented the house next door too. It had a pool and a hot tub that all 10 Mansfielders shared. Over the years, roommates came and went. Just about everyone who lived there loved music or was a musician. We never had to invite our friends over because they were already there. We spent days and nights sitting on the porch or by the pool pondering life and drinking an endless flow of light beer. I loved being surrounded by people. In my 30’s, after realizing it would be a good idea to invest in something, I bought a house and lived alone. It wasn’t far from Mansfield, so I got to enjoy pool days with friends and quiet by myself. In 2008, I lost my job and eventually couldn’t pay my mortgage, so I lost the house in autumn 2009. Thankfully, a former Mansfielder offered me his extra bedroom. I stayed there until 2012. That was the last time I lived with anyone. When I look at it now, I can see the evolution from needing to be surrounded by people to becoming more comfortable by myself. I also see how I’ve engineered a life I love to live alone. I never get lonely. I see women with children and I don’t know how they do it. I do not have the inclination or the energy to keep up with or care for others like that. Just the presence of someone else’s constant energy, whether it’s as simple as someone talking to me all the time or having to go, go, go to soccer practice or dance class or get to the bus stop is overwhelming to me. When I look back, it always has been. For the past two weeks, I’ve had friends visiting in Bonaire. Let me state right now, they did nothing wrong and they are lovely people. But it was fascinating for me to compare my pace and amount of daily activity to someone else’s. I’ve been a remote worker since 2001, so I’m used to being alone. In LA, I would stay home for five or six days and not see or do anything outside of work, write, take a walk, or run errands. Then somewhere around the sixth or seventh day, I would go to dinner, breakfast, a bar, or the beach with a friend. I thought I came to Bonaire to slow down and now I realize I already live at a super slow pace in comparison to other people. I also realized that I react to problems much differently when I am alone versus when I’m with someone. Almost at the same time A arrived, I broke out into a full-body painful, hot, bumpy rash. Then a day later, the internet went out on the same day that three work projects blew up. I did not handle it well. I panicked and worried about my clients. I was grumpy and agitated as I dragged poor A to a café with internet and then another café with internet. The rash, the heat, the bugs, and the full moon did not help. (My emotions flare around the full moon. Do yours?)

Then a storm rolled in. We couldn’t take a scenic drive or go on a snorkel cruise or go snorkeling at all. We couldn’t even watch a movie because the TV streamed via internet. I didn’t handle it well. I snapped, dropped a lot of f bombs, and even cried. It could not have been fun for A. But she, with tremendous grace, was unflappably supportive and I love her for that. Now that I’m by myself again, I’m reflecting on how I reacted to the bugs, rash, internet outage, and storm. Would I have reacted differently had I been alone? After all, when I arrived in a strange country by myself with no luggage or laptop charger, I was so calm I shocked myself. So, why did I react to problems so poorly when A was with me? Was it really the full moon? Or was it something else? I don’t know, but what I do know is that I’m not as zen as I thought I was and I still have a lot to work on, which of course, is part of the journey and the universe’s better plan. I’ll let you know what I learn.

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