My favorite thing about staying out till late is the cab ride back home. I don’t have to worry about driving or traffic and most drivers I’ve had to deal with haven’t been talkative. This usually gives me an hour of silence to look at the world around me as it is swallowed by darkness. Streetlights and lights of buildings give me hints of what surrounds me. I see the greenish yellow of a branch or the too-yellow framed ‘බුදු සරණයි’ or ‘දෙවි පිහිටයි.’ I see faces and vehicles, briefly and quietly.
Being alone during such taxi rides back home calm me. They give me time to think and just be without having to impress others or please them. No one matters when it’s just you in a cozy car being driven home.
I like being alone. I like sitting at a café booth, sipping my coffee and reading. I like listening to the soft music or the sounds of the world around me. I like being left alone. And it’s not a bad thing. Not always. Sometimes you need the time off from the world. Sometimes even the people you like or love can overwhelm you and no one should feel bad for wanting to be left alone.
And yet, society, which is made of people, insists that loneliness or solitude is not a good thing. Interpersonal relationships are given such importance and we see this in the way all celebrations and festivals require two or more people or focus on the relationship between two or more people. Take Valentine’s Day. It’s all about love shared between people. Take Mother’s or Father’s Day. It’s about the relationship between parent and child. Even birthday celebrations require dealing with other people.
It’s ‘sad’ to be alone. It’s ‘sad’ if you celebrate your birthday by yourself or buy yourself flowers or gifts. It’s ‘sad’ if you spend Friday nights alone. In the buses I travel in, people are constantly talking with other people. There’s always interaction.
It’s not right if you are single. It’s not right if you don’t want to spend time with your friends.
But sometimes there’s nothing wrong with taking a break from this hectic and loud world we live in. Relationships are difficult and a lot of effort is demanded when maintaining them. It’s not easy to talk to people and spend time with them. And yet, that’s what we are forced to do since we are babies. We are constantly being forced to be with other people and so society forgets the joy of being alone or spending time alone.
And we can blame society. We can say that since ancient days, we’ve been social creatures. But we are society and we are the ones making it so difficult to be alone. We don’t let people enjoy being alone. We make loneliness seem like a disease. It’s a curse, almost, to not have any relationships or to want to be alone.
But sometimes, even if the world keeps knocking on the door, demanding to be let in, we must resist opening the door. We need to keep the windows shut, curtains drawn and door locked. Sometimes we need to be alone because for some, if not most or all, that’s how we can find peace. That’s how we can find the energy to face the world again.