The southern wind brought warmth to the unusually temperate December night, wrapping itself around my body, relaxing the muscles on my face as my feet pounded the trail. Stars began to replace the sun’s rays as darkness set in. Suddenly the winds took a turn, whipping from the mountains, carrying crispness and moisture from storms yet to come. With nothing to distract me I could feel the instantaneous changes in weather and time. I was alone. So blissfully, peacefully, alone.
In a society where we are rarely alone, we have a surprising number of words to describe being without others: alone, lonely, isolation, solo, hermit, abandoned, outcast – all of which have drastically different meanings and connotations. To be ‘alone’ is not necessarily to be ‘abandoned’, and to be in ‘isolation’ is not necessarily to be an ‘outcast’.
But there is one word that stands apart, that evokes serenity instead of fear: solitude. Solitude is a choice and an acceptance of oneself. While running on the trail at night, looking out to the mountains and over the city, I felt free, unrestricted by expectations, judgments, or responsibilities. For a moment I felt as though I could leave everything behind and run forever.
It made me think, how often am I alone? Am I spending my time wisely, with gratitude and intention? I spent a week documenting the moments I was alone and at peace. When I stopped seeking the approval of others, and focused on my own well-being, I was surprised by who I found.
I cooked, listened to music, wandered without direction, and wrote stories about nothing. Solitude gave me the freedom to be adventurous and make mistakes. But not everyone understands the power of solitude, and the importance of letting the mind run wild. People have become chained to mobile devices, social networking, and keeping tabs on their peers, both near and far. Those who choose solitude are considered strange and antisocial. But being alone does not have to be negative, nor does it have to be criticized by those who have yet to grasp its importance.
I challenge all of you: make the intention to remove unnecessary distractions that inhibit you from getting to know yourself on a personal level. Go into nature or simply into your own mind. Become aware of the changing winds. Go be alone. Go be quiet. And go be free.