Happiness Is Only Real When Shared
Sometimes to love my own company is just not enough
We’ve all had moments of solitude. It doesn’t have to mean we are lonely. In my case, I’m far from lonely. I might be alone in a foreign country, but I talk to more people daily than when I was living with my husband and in-laws.
I’ve always liked to be alone. I used to say that I was a lonely kid who turned into a lonely adult. In hindsight, it’s not as true as I liked to say. Nowadays, I have a family, a husband, friends, and now colleagues. I cultivate my alone time because I want to, not because I have to.
Yet having people in my life does not mean I have them in my daily life. True, I talk to a bunch of people throughout the day but there’s no one besides me at the end of the day. I am, indeed, alone.
I’ve read many times online that it is brave to go out alone. Treat yourself to a movie, or dinner out. I think society is changing for the better, and there is less stigma on parties of one. It’s great. I like being able to do things on my own. But sometimes I hate that there’s no one I can turn to and share it with.
I remember when I arrived in the United States for the first time. I was an exchange student and a teaching assistant. My “boss” was very nice. All the department was friendly. Almost every single person I talked to on campus was great. But I was alone. I didn’t have friends to go out with — not yet, at least.
One night, there was a comedian on campus. I wanted to experience an American comedian live for the first time. It was free, five minutes away from my house… I decided to be brave and go on my own. I was trying hard to work on myself and put myself out there. This was a big step.
I left my house early to get a decent seat. I walked up the hill, crossed the lawn between the library and the student center, and entered the building. A lot of students were already present, happily chattering among themselves. I felt a little stupid being on my own. Two of my students were seated in the front. They waved at me, smiled, and resumed their conversation.
I took a sit in the middle, no one else was around. And I waited. As the minutes went on, I felt humiliated. I was a failure because I couldn’t make a single friend. I had to come here on my own because I had no one. No one would laugh with me. No one would share this moment with me.
Suddenly being in this room full of happy people was hurting. I could hear the cracks in my heart forming. I was all alone again, like so many times before. I was still that kid in high school hiding in the toilets so she didn’t have to eat alone in the lunch hall.
The first tear dropped before I could realize it. I knew many more were coming. I exited the room, almost ran into a group of people as I tried to keep my crying face down. I went back home and spent the night in my room, feeling sorry for myself.
Eventually, I made friends and had the time of my life there. I met my husband, and my life was changed for the better. Still, nothing will erase that night, or all the other times I felt so alone I crumbled.
Years have passed. I have changed and I have learned to find strength in my solitude. Loneliness is not always so bad when you are your own best friend, but being alone is not always easy.
I am back in the same situation: I’m new in the country. I don’t have friends yet, but I don’t want to waste my time staying in my room. There’s a rugby match I could go to — but isn’t it something meant to be shared?
There’s also a walk at dusk in Dublin to see the winter lights. It sounds great, but I’m afraid to feel lonely among the families and couples sharing that special moment. I’ll be the one with no one I can turn toward and share the amazement.
Can I go alone? Yes. Do I want to? Not really. It’s not about being on my own as much as it’s about having someone to share it with.
It brings me back to that quote from Christopher McCandless (Into The Wild).
Happiness is only real when shared.
For most of my life, I’ve fought to believe it isn’t true. I can be alone and happy. It happens to me every day. But maybe true happiness does come from sharing. Having someone creating a memory with us, of us, that will live on.
Like the old question “if a tree falls and no one hears it, does it make a sound?”, if I spend too many days alone, making memories for myself, what will be left once I’m gone? Will those days live on if there is no one to remember them?
I don’t want to be a faceless body in a crowd. I don’t want to become just a photo in an album, a link on the internet, or a ghost in diary pages. I want to have been alive, and have shared memories to prove it.
In the end, what matters to me is not the places I’ve been or the money I made, but the moments I spent in good company.
We all have our own recipe for happiness. There’s no universal science to being happy, no matter how many people try to sell it. Sometimes happiness can be found in a quiet room, away from the maddening crowd, but sometimes happiness takes a whole new meaning in someone else’s eyes.
I’m still going to explore Ireland alone for the time being. I enjoy visiting things first so I can bring my family there afterward. I’m a bit of a tourist guide I guess, if they count as tourists. They don’t tip me but they feed me so I’m not about to complain!
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