Friday, October 16, 2020

Being alone is both a freeing and slightly terrifying concept. It really depends on an individual's comfort and acceptance of what they are able to do in that situation and their experiences. It can put someone in crippling anxiety or provide a sense of peace and freedom. The only difference between one way or the other is the individual's coping mechanisms. Nevertheless, we are social creatures and at some point in our lives; we do want someone who we can share our experiences with, dote on, be friends with, and feel loved with. Sometimes we may even define our worthiness with who we keep around and how they treat us. This is a very complex behaviour and one with so many factors. 

    Culture can really impact the way we perceive living or being alone. For example, in my culture and even religion, there is a huge emphasis on being married, bearing kids, and having a family. Culturally, in Pakistani and Indian culture, extended families are preferred. This can significantly limit alone time, privacy, and independence. We eat together, relax together, and spend the majority of our time in the company of others in some form or other. Even at work, we are usually surrounded by coworkers. During my childhood, we were a family of four living in a small two-bedroom apartment. There was no escape from my parents who can choose to barge into the bedroom I shared with my sister at any given moment. I found time to be alone when they were at work and I would babysit my sister and brother. You may think living in such a way most would crave their alone time. Yes, this can motivate those living in such conditions to enjoy their alone time but usually, it is for small periods of time. A lot of my friends who have grown in such environments do enjoy their alone time but cannot imagine living on a day to day basis all by themselves even in adulthood. This is true no matter what the situation at home is like and how constricted they may be there. When given the option, they would choose to stay with others over being completely alone. Even when they moved out, there would be constant calls home to the parents because they believe they don't know how to survive without consistent advice from their parents even though they could manage just fine without it. We become conditioned to wanting an elder at home who will continue to guide us in our lives. 

    My culture does not appreciate women being on their own right from when we are born. They teach us that we always need a man there to protect us whether it is our father, brother, or husband. Being alone is dangerous and looked down on because our value as a child-bearing woman is wasted when are not married off and it also brings our dignity and image into question when there is no man in the house who will protect our chastity and purity. Men are the stronger sex and also unable to keep their desires to themselves so the female sex needs to contain themselves in an environment where they will not get hurt. These are the lessons girls learn as soon as they can understand the consequences of being born a female. Also, our value is based on how good of a wife we are, how happy our father and husband are with us, and how we raised our children. Everything else is secondary. As you can see, we are not supposed to be left alone to our own devices because that could mean the destruction of our family image. It is scandalous to defy the rules society created for us and pick who we want to marry and how we live our lives. Happiness becomes secondary or dependent on the approval of others. We learn we need to constantly seek approval from those around us in order to be happy with ourselves. In such a situation, how does one cope when there is nobody around to give us that approval or we feel we are doing something wrong by wanting to be alone?

    The most important factor in how we would feel when alone would depend on if we chose to be alone or not. If it is not by choice, it becomes a prison from which we will desperately try to escape. There is no joy in the solitude when actively looking for companionship. Unfortunately, a lot of women become trapped in this way because of limitations in marriage. Someone who is searching for their life partner but cannot find one within their community or religious sect will feel the loneliness drowning them as time goes on. On the other hand, for someone who does not want to marry or start a family yet, or ever, will find solace in being by themselves. 

    Regardless of which category you fall into, it is still important to learn how to manage one's alone time. At some point in one's life this will be useful because just like life is in constant motion, so are the people surrounding us, including family. Marriage unites two independent entities and forces them to work and live together for as long as possible. This does not mean each individual loses their identity to conform to each other. They will still have their unique tastes, preferences, and habits they have built up in their lives. Being wholly dependent on the other's company may become overwhelming for the other partner. Also, after marriage, you may notice that your languages are different and there might be a difference in how much independent time each one expects from the other for their own hobbies or activities. These are important conversations to have before marriage because it can change the dynamic of the relationship after marriage or breed loneliness. 

    From my own personal experiences, I developed a very detached and independent personality from a young age because my parents were very busy in their lives. I learned how to cook and care for my siblings and my parents as they navigated through their own challenges and relationship. Now, I relish my alone time and I don't feel any particular attachment to a person, place, or thing. This is why I was able to hop on a plane to Europe on a moment's notice with very little preparation on what lay ahead. I knew I would be able to figure it out over time and I was not worried. Leaving my parents who I had been living with for the first two and half decades of my life did not feel overwhelming or painful. I was more than ready to take this leap. But I do come with a lot of baggage which may have affected my relationships in a good and bad way. In relationships, I never developed a dependency on anyone. Even now in marriage, I am staying in the relationship because I want to be there and not because I have no other option. If my husband decided to leave tomorrow, I would be disappointed but I would also open the door for him and wish him well. Being alone isn't terrifying for me. In past relationships, the boys and men who courted me did not appreciate the fact that I can walk away at a moment's notice if they hint at being unhappy in the relationship. I cannot stand to have someone tell me they are suffering while with me. I see no point in begging someone to stay. 

    This one boy during my undergraduate years actually became upset when I told him I didn't need him I just wanted him and if things were to change for either of us I would accept it and move on. This troubled the poor guy greatly for many months and he kept trying to change my opinion because he felt vulnerable in his position since he associated his love for me with a need so intense that he had no control over it. This disturbed me greatly and in some ways pushed me away. Because of his "need" to have me in his life, he felt he needed to control my decisions so that I wouldn't walk away or leave. He tried to diminish my interest in traveling or studying abroad because he felt he would have no control of the situation and he would be in agony being far away whereas I would be enjoying myself. He could not stand to see me happy if he wasn't. In fact, when I mentioned my interest in medical school abroad, he panicked and told me that only those with no ambition and their parent's money use that option and if I cannot get into medical school here, then I should simply give up my dream. Unfortunately, I didn't recognize what was happening until later on but once I did, there was no holding me back. Toxic behaviours can develop when someone is uncomfortable with the idea of being alone and associates it to abandonment.

    Sometimes women stay in toxic relationships and marriages simply because the idea of being alone is terrifying. They question how they will manage kids and a life without the man there even if the man isn't contributing anything anyway. This was the reason my parents stayed together in a loveless marriage for so many years. The mismatch was so great that now they cannot even talk to each other in a normal tone of voice and are still somewhat miserable. The word of divorce continues to rest on the table as a threat that neither of them really cares about. Kids who grow up in these conditions are very sensitive and aware of what is happening. There is no way to hide it from them and they will suffer no matter how the parents try to shelter them from it. The tone of the voices, body language, and the atmosphere in the house remains electrified in an uneasy manner for everyone who lives there. Kids will try to find means of escape or grow up considering the abusive or detached behaviour is normal. This is very harmful for child development and can affect them physically and mentally. Just like the parents pretend their kids are fine, the kids will learn to pretend as well in front of them. Taking the big step forward is the hardest part.  

    During the period of my life where I was emotionally unstable, being left alone with my thoughts was a horrible experience. The negativity in my mind overwhelmed me and isolated me further. I needed someone to notice my suffering and be there with me so I could unravel the confusion and chaos in my head. Then, in my state of depression, I pushed everyone away as I lay alone in the room in a state of mental exhaustion and lifelessness. I did not want anyone around me; in fact, I wanted nothing at all. I wanted everything to end so I could rest. In situations like this, leaving someone unattended and alone could become very detrimental and dangerous for their health. They need professional help and personal support individually as early as possible. It is important to notice sudden changes in behaviour in loved ones because there could be a manageable reason for their sudden isolation. 

    We are all such interesting and unique entities living in a gas fishbowl. We are driven by our instinct and the way life and situations shape us. There is no perfect or right way of living and loving. All of our experiences vary and based on that, we learn to survive in a way that we can tolerate and even enjoy. What is important to one, may be irrelevant for the other. Your happiness and peace are the most essential component. Sacrifice and compromise are components of life but they shouldn't be taking over everything. There is a need for balance, whatever that means to you.   

Until Next Time,

Photo by Katherine Chase on Unsplash


  1. Wow what a heart touching post. I believe you covered so many emotions which some people are afraid to discuss openly. Amazing post. Please keep writing :)

    1. Thank you! I really try to encompass what we go through in all sorts of events in our life. Thank you for your feedback!


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