How Being Alone Became My Superpower
If you’re someone who ‘struggles’ with loneliness or has a hard time being alone… read this article through to the end and I promise that you’ll never look at being alone the same way again.
I spend a lot of time alone – and in this article, I want to talk about my relationship with loneliness, and how it has evolved over the years.
One of my favorite things to do at night is to look out my window.
I love the stark contrast of light versus darkness.
Tens if not hundreds of thousands of tiny lights – what an interesting sensation to realize that every single one of them represents ‘life’ in some shape or form.
I look out to some of the apartments in the building across from me.
In one apartment I can see kids and puppies running back and forth, while the adults hang out in the main room, sitting around in a circle of chairs… just … talking.
I love that about Colombia.
In another apartment, I can see the lights of the TV dancing off the face of someone bouncing up and down on an exercise bike.
In yet another apartment, someone is on their balcony, staring out into the distance – I wonder what they’re thinking about…
I like the exercise of observing my own loneliness within the greater context of those around me.
I don’t really have ‘social’ friends – It’s been years since it was a normal thing for me to ‘go out’ – even for a quick bite at a restaurant is a rare occurrence.
Weeks at a time where I wake up – spend the entire day doing my best to make progress towards my goals, and then I go to sleep.
Almost a decade of existing this way – I find that the more I embrace periods of ‘being alone’, the more that I am able to absolutely THRIVE in my personal and professional life… but it hasn’t always been this way…
There were a few specific periods in my life characterized by overwhelming loneliness, and understanding those periods has been an invaluable tool on my journey so far.
When I was 13 years old – puberty hit me hard. My face was so covered in acne that nobody wanted to be my friend. Even people who had previously been my friends, were now embarrassed to be seen with me.
It’s one thing to be alone in an empty room, it’s another thing entirely to be alone within a large group of people.
Every day felt like a full year – at lunch period, because I didn’t have a table to sit at, I’d grab my lunch, and when nobody was looking, I’d go to a bathroom stall and just sit there until the bell rang to signal the next period.
This was before cell phones, and so I didn’t have a digital companion –
It was just me, alone in that bathroom stall, counting down the seconds until the next period, afraid to death that someone would discover where I was going and what I was doing every day.
Thankfully, it turns out that people don’t care what you’re doing as much as you think they do.
School days couldn’t finish soon enough – I’d race home to where my real social was waiting for me – in the form of Role playing games.
First was Chrono Trigger – then Final Fantasy 7, and then Xenogears.
My only real social interactions were with the characters in these games. It’s where I learned my values – where I began to develop and understand that hard work and discipline was required to achieve difficult goals, and it fact it was hard work and discipline that made difficult goals even worth it in the first place.
It’s where I came to understand important traits and emotions, like honor, courage, loyalty, trust, and even love.
It was where I modeled ALL important archetypes like the hero, the dreamer, the martyr, the mentor.
I’d go to sleep feeling like I was still in those games – but every morning it was back to school – back to the reality of being alone… being a loser.
I was a loser, more than anything, BECAUSE I was alone, BECAUSE I had no friends – this was a universal rule… right?
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Fast forward a bit to March 2nd, 2011 – I was now 26 years old – it was close to midnight, I was on the roof of the apartment that I lived at, in Brooklyn NY.
I was staring out onto the Manhattan skyline. New York City has a funny way of either making you feel like you’re on top of the world, or making you feel like you’re being crushed by it.
I had been going through a massive depression – and while most of the day I was able to fill the void with mindless instant messaging and internet browsing, there was something about being alone at night that felt unbearable.
Just a few weeks earlier, a girl that I thought was the love of my life had left me to go back to a man that was FAR better than I.
And so standing alone on that roof, pulling on a cigarette, feeling more alone and depressed than I had ever been – I had an epiphany.
What exactly happened in that moment I’ll talk about in another video – but I returned to my apartment a COMPLETELY different person from when I had left it.
I spent the near year and two months in almost COMPLETE isolation – seeing friends and family only a small handful of times.
I began to immerse myself in books – I would read, and then I would apply.
For the first time in my life I had a desire to discover who I was, and to work hard to improve that person.
I decided that in roughly a year’s time, that I would compete in an ironman – and I went from someone who had never run more than a few blocks, to training up to 7 hours per day.
Every morning I’d get up from my warm blankets, and run over to the public pool where I’d throw myself into the freezing cold water to start my swim training.
I’d run at night time so that I could avoid the crowds – cold new york nights that took me over the Brooklyn Bridge into Manhattan, and then back over the Williamsburg Bridge into Brooklyn where I’d often be completely alone.
Every day was me, alone, versus myself – and for the first time in my life, not only was I conscious of this battle… I was winning it.
On the weekends, long 7-hour bike rides that took me deep into New Jersey.
Every minute of those 7 hours, I was pushing myself – they say that most long-distance competitions, aren’t so much about endurance as they are about pain management, and I COMPLETELY agree.
Every time I trained, I was alone, and I trained every day, for hours at a time, for a YEAR AND TWO MONTHS – where every training session – there was always a part of me that wanted to stop – and every training session, the part of me that wanted to push harder, was more dominant.
I find that in all of the stories of my life, this is the one that I am least able to use words to communicate to others – that year and 2 months – being completely alone and working to overcome something I saw as so much greater than anything I had ever previously thought I was capable of…
When I look back now, this was the most beautiful experience of my life…. Up to this point 🙂
When I wasn’t training, I was reading. I was working on my skills as a website designer – where I went from working for free, or a measly few hundred dollars, building good websites that took me months to build – to getting paid thousands of dollars to build incredible websites, that took me a fraction of the time to build.
Working to improve myself in an environment where I was completely isolated – completely alone – I felt ever-present.
Why had I feared being alone before this point? Why had I always felt like a loser.
If we all have a unique essence, this is certainly mine. I thrive when I’m alone. This was certainly where I was meant to be. Meant to thrive.
Before my epiphany, I had treated ‘loneliness’ as something I had ought to just… avoid.
I never really thought about it – I just believed that being alone was bad.
This was the thought of a slave – a slave to a system designed to maximize profit at all costs.
If we are taught to FEAR being alone, well then that reduces the ‘RISK’ that we may go inside of ourselves and discover who we really are, like I did – risk that we may come to know ourselves on a deep level.
I say “risk” to know ourselves is not profitable to the system. Imagine what a catastrophe that would be if everyone knew themselves?
If we all suddenly realized that we didn’t need pills and shortcuts to fix our problems.
If we all suddenly realized that the consumption of material things can never lead to fulfillment – that consumption is a never-ending game where there will ALWAYS be something else that we need to consume to be happy.
If we all suddenly realized that to be ‘ok’ being alone, is ok.
In the years since my epiphany, there have still been numerous times where I’m alone – and I feel scared… where I don’t WANT to be alone.
Now of course there are legitimate reasons for that – times where I should feel pain when I’m alone, I mean after all, I want to find love. I want to raise a family.
But if I’m alone eating a meal, or alone in the bathroom, and I felt the urge to watch YouTube not for any specific reason beyond wanting to REMOVE that feeling of being alone – I realize that these are the tentacles of a system – the false reality – desperately trying to pull me back in.
In many ways, to exist within this system – as we all do – is a form of disease.
Browsing the internet – watching TV, – even just talking to friends – this is all part of the closed-loop of the system – and the more time we spend ‘not alone’ – the more we become infected.
Being alone… being OK being alone, is the cure.
This is a huge benefit of meditation –
Meditation for me is the realization that there is only the now, and in this now, I am not alone, because in this now I am present with myself.
The more I understand that, the easier it is to be alone.
Now what’s interesting is that when I sit down to meditate, I’m essentially ‘going’ to the meditation.
But when I’m alone – 3am in the morning, writing words like the ones you’re presently hearing – when I’m alone, that’s when the meditation comes to me.
When I’m alone, staring out my window at the hundreds of thousands of lights and realizing that each one of them represents an individual life with it’s own unique experience…
I realize that I’m never alone.
Some of you watching may perceive this as sad or depressing, but if you spent some more time alone, perhaps you realize that what you’re perceiving is actually a deep reflection into yourself.
The happiest part of my day is waking up at 3am to complete silence – in a world that is so overwhelmingly noisy, I find that the silence now passes over me like a cool, relaxing breeze.
I write in my journal, meditate, and then sit in front of the computer, to work uninterrupted, for HOURS on end while the rest of the world sleeps.
I LOVE being alone.
Guys – i’m not trying to motivate, i’m not trying to tell you guys what to do, I’m not TRYING to do anything.
What I’m doing is sharing an experience that you guys can relate to and use to reflect within your own unique experiences and journeys.
If you like and want to support that idea – if you enjoyed this article – can you please give the YouTube video a like?
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This is the path.
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