Everyone has heard of the stereotype. A person who sits alone and keeps to themselves — someone who doesn’t speak to classmates, go out with friends or chat with workmates. Some people call them the ultimate introverts, hermits or lone wolves. Or just loners.
As someone who’s been a loner my whole life, I’ve taken away a few observations about this lifestyle. Namely, I’ve felt a combination of meditative self-growth and bittersweet isolation from wandering through the wilderness of my own mind. Although the loner lifestyle is intimidating to the general public, for me and a small portion of the population, the loner lifestyle and its many pros and cons is just life.
1. Time to Understand Myself
Unlike my more social peers, being a loner has given me control over my schedule growing up. When you’re not out with friends every weekend, you have a lot of time to yourself. This extra time can give you the chance to delve deeper into your psyche. I ask a lot of philosophical questions about my existence and, with the use of the internet, am able to invest my time into abnormal psychology, philosophy and writing.
I’ve gotten really interested in books, movies and music. Especially music. I’ve surfed YouTube for hours on end, finding bands like Tides of Man and Imogen Heap to name a few. Over the years, my music taste has evolved. I’ve watched many foreign films, such as “Leap Year,” which features a sadistic relationship between a Mexican couple, and “Hypnotized,” a Korean romance film about a woman with bipolar disorder.
Alone time can allow you to sharpen your interests. I know what I like and what type of aesthetics I’m going for. I’ve traveled through my head discovering my special traits, like intense empathy coupled with my yin-yang-like detachment and dark humor. I’ve observed people from a distance, giving advice to the rare acquaintance I’ve been comfortable hanging out with. Being alone can ferment your brain, so to speak. It can help you blossom internally and feel more intimately connected with yourself, a feeling many socialites can miss out on.
2. Ability to Be Alone
If you’re like me and used to being alone, maybe you’ve also grown more and more comfortable with the art of “lonedomness,” a term I’ve coined to describe the freedom and boredom of being alone most of the time. When you’re alone you don’t have to put up with people who disrespect you, and you can always leave them and enjoy your own company.
Many important life lessons about purpose and human nature need to be learned alone. This leads to wisdom, which brings about the fortitude necessary to be alone when the crowd, a magnetic temptation, wants to violate your personal personal character. No matter who comes to me, I will stand up for what I believe in. I stand with the individual and their story. I stand for the discovery of truth, no matter how ugly. When I’m around people who obstruct these ideals, as a loner, I’m able to simply walk away.
3. The Ability to Focus
The ability to focus is a human superpower. The amount of chores, exercise regimes, homework, career moves and personal time that can be accomplished is up to the individual. As a loner, I can move about a lot more freely. Other than the occasional phone call from family, I’m not tied down to any social obligation.
When you’re a loner, your free time belongs to yourself. In fact, every week, I make a schedule of the things I need to accomplish, allowing me to have control over my lifestyle. Being bombarded by other people opinions can slow you down. I’ve realized the weight of outside advice destroys personal decision — something every independent person needs.
1. Social Awkwardness
A related downside to being a loner is lack of social skills. A skill, like a muscle, needs to be exercised if one wishes to maintain it. My social skills are superficial at best. Like many loners, I tend to appear aloof and harsh in social situations, something that I used to worry about to a degree. Although I am a loner, I still care about appearing approachable.
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve come across a fork in the road: I can either become devoted to making myself a kind and welcoming person despite my inner dislike of unmotivated conversation, or I can delve even further into myself and truly feel complete detachment from others, solidifying my solidarity with self. The latter means absolute solitude, speaking only on my terms. As a loner, these are my dilemmas and may be yours too, problems socialites don’t have to ponder.
2. The Echo Chamber
At some point, I believe that once individuals master themselves, they need to master others. Otherwise, they become an echo chamber within themselves. Echo chambers inhibit self-growth because they ignore challenge, leading to arrogance and narcissism, two things I know very well. By seeing people as only a sum of human nature, not as individuals, it’s easy for apathy and even hatred to sink in. These emotions aren’t bad as much as they are dangerous.
In a society that promotes extreme positivity, it’s hard to find resources on how to deal with these intense emotions that don’t apply to vapid advice like “follow your heart” or “keep your head up.” At some point I’ll just give up with trying to find them, leading to intense isolation. This isolation provides a jungle for self-exploration, but I’ve discovered that after venturing in too deep, it’s easy to get lost in yourself. Having a friend serves as an external frame of reference — someone with whom to compare sanity. Without this, a loner might make the wrong turn and not know until years later.
Believe it or not, I want a family someday. I’m sure there are other loner types who feel the same. Despite the seduction of solitude, a feeling of loneliness prevails over many of us. Sometimes it feels that there isn’t anyone to discuss new insights with. Although I like going to the movies alone, the occasional friend to see “Neon Demon” with would be nice. Ice skating seems unfulfilling alone. Who do you dress for? Who do you share new foods with? Family can’t fill every void.
But seriously, the portrayal of loners as people who desire complete solitude is only partially true. I love being alone. Most loners do — sometimes I get annoyed just by someone breathing around me, but even the biggest hermit on earth wants somebody to love them. Someone they can love in return.
As tempting as it is, I can only speak for myself in saying that loners aren’t crazed serial killers. There are many layers below the surface of the loner mindset despite its oversimplification in the media and in art. There shouldn’t be shame or guilt associated with the lifestyle. As a loner, I’m skilled in the arts of silence and contemplation. I like exploring abstract ideas. I consider questions of death and the depth of free will.
Yet, on the day to day, it’s good to be outside my head sometimes. For any loner, I recommend one or two hobbies that keep one passionately stimulated. It’s also important to maintain compassion for others, because people are little packages of surprises — sometimes good, sometimes bad. Either way, everyone should accept people for who they are, loner or not. Every person who has ever lived has a story. This is just a part of mine, and maybe a part of yours too.