Alone vs. Lonely
I’m currently sitting by a river in the Fishlake National Forest in Southern Utah. I found a pullout on the side of the road on my way to my campground that had a paved path all the way down to the riverbank. Flint is exploring cautiously, trying to find his best route back to the car while I write this. The river is moving fast so I keep a tight hold on his leash, worried that if I let go or let him wander too far, he’ll be swept away by the river.
It’s only been ten days, but it feels like it’s been so much longer. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about being what It means to be alone versus being lonely. I’ve been very alone for the past ten days. Flint is amazing, but he isn’t exactly the best conversationalist and many days I don’t have cell service. I think it would be very easy to get caught up in the alone-ness of it all. But I haven’t lonely.
A big part of why I wanted to do this trip is self-reflection. I’ve seen a lot in myself over the past few years that I don’t love. Choices I’ve made, things I’ve said, just all around the person I’ve been. Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of things about myself that I like, but I think we always have room for improvement and I’m no exception. I wanted to take this trip to spend time alone with myself and reflect on those things.
In the past year since getting divorced, I’ve made a lot of changes. I started seeing a psychiatrist, I’ve worked on my friendships, I’ve made amends to people I’ve wronged in the past, and I’ve tried my best to be unapologetically me.
When we split a year ago, I didn’t have an answer to that question. I wasn’t sure who I was. I felt so lonely and so lost and so unsure of what was next. I needed a fresh start and I needed to get to know myself again.
I did a lot of growing in those first few months last summer. I talked to friends and family about who they thought I was and I tried to figure out if their perceptions of me, lined up with what I thought about myself. In some cases, yes, in some cases, no.
On one of my first visits with my psychiatrist, she asked me what I value. I had no idea. I had no answer for her. So she had me do an activity to discover what I value. I came up with creativity, passion, adventure, humor, and purpose. It also taught me what I don’t value: stability, order, tradition, fitness, and popularity.
I was already pretty sure I wanted to do this trip at that point, but that activity sealed it for me. I needed adventure, I needed to follow my passion, and if I didn’t do it now I would regret it forever.
While I’m here, I’m shooting a documentary about my journey. Not just my physical journey across the West, but my emotional journey as well. I’m documenting my time getting to know myself again, learning who I am, and what this life means to me.
So bringing it back to being alone versus being lonely, I think it would be very easy to be lonely on a trip like this. Being alone, this alone, forces you to spend time with your thoughts and if you don’t like those thoughts, if you don’t like yourself, not only would it get lonely, it would drive you crazy.
I’m thankful I’m taking this journey and spending this time with myself. Even if I don’t always like who I am, this quality time allows me to unpack those things, address them, and overcome them.
I do not expect to be the same person I was 10 days ago when this trip is over. I hope I’ll be better.
It looks like it’s about to rain. I should get back in the car.