I’m a loner and I don’t see why that has to be such a negative thing.
Last night I made a (very) brief appearance at the opening night of a new art exhibit. The gallery is relatively new, and therefore a cultural hot spot. Curious, and with a lack of anything else to really do, I decided to venture on out to it.
The theme of the exhibit was local Instagram photography. Given the size of this mid-west city the art community is rather small in comparison to more metropolitan areas, which provides it’s own particular set of pros and cons. Given that the majority of people at the event were faces and names I had come to at least recognize vaguely, much of the crowd I was familiar with. Likewise, a lot of the artists Instagrams I follow, so the photography was something I had seen through my iPhone a few times. I am not diminishing this. It was a nice celebration of local pride and creating a sense of community. I had arrived alone. Albeit, I was in a peculiar mood, and found myself magnetically pulled to the walls of the gallery and staying away from the center crowd. I figured that a five min. rush through would have been a waste of my time, so I sat at a comfortable chair and observed – a skill that I have effectively perfected throughout the years – how to magically disappear and yet remain mindfully engaged with those around you. I couldn’t help but shake a feeling that I was out of place, however. I felt like the gangly kid from freshman year again. All the other kids just get “it,” how to keep their hair cool, how to effortlessly mingle in crowds, how to maintain stimulating small talk without visible nerves.
The inner monologue turned for the worse. I suddenly disliked the people around me, found them fake and ego-stroking for their own validation.. These are people I genuinely like and if I don’t people that I notice around town and genuinely want to get to know. I got upset with my boyfriend for not coming with me. And then a thought occurred to me that this was the effect of wrongful thinking. It was fear masquerading as anger. I felt threatened, and I can admit that.
So I wandered more and found that in the back corner of the gallery was an interactive set for visitors to create their own instagram photoshoot. If you stood away from the corner it looked like a hodgepodge mess of objects and, frankly, looked messy. However, if one were to pull out their phone and focus in on a few objects it would create this very eclectic and bohemian square photo – slap on a filter and ba-da-bing! A beautiful caricature of life. Just like real life.
Thinking more tonight about how I felt being a loner at this event…. I realized that I didn’t actually mind – I just felt like I should. Why was I the type to be uncomfortable networking at galleries? Why was I the type to prefer the conversation I was having with myself more than with others? Because – because it’s how I am hardwired – just like how many of those people would be incredibly uncomfortable if we were to sit and smoke cigarettes and have a conversation one-on-one (which is where I shine more.)
This all stirred up a lot of complex feelings, but feelings that I wasn’t unaccustomed to. They were vaguely familiar – they were how I had once felt. So tonight while brain-storming more about this I pulled out a journal I had found when rummaging through my mothers attic over the summer. The dates start in 2005, a decade ago, when I was 15. I hadn’t moved to Canada yet. I hadn’t been kissed yet. The very, very first page was a list of things about me; my age, favorite color, favorite animal, hobbies….general ‘facts’ to show who I was at 15 written in a colorful purple pen. However this is all scribbled out with aggressive black ink and scribbled in distinctly different, yet still my handwriting “No one cares about this!”
I don’t have to explain much more other than to say the theme of the journal from 2005- 2007 closely follows that disposition. That’s just one journal. Many more, through later years, get darker and harder on myself.
At the gallery – the same dialogue was happening. “Why can’t I just fucking blend in?” “Why are you so awkward talking to people.” “They think you’re boring that’s why they’re walking away.”
After reading that journal entry I immediately wrote a journal entry dated ten years later apologizing to my former self for being mean to myself, for not crediting myself. To be honest, ten years later reading those entries were rather profound. They were deep, reflective thoughts for anyone, let alone a fifteen-year-old, but they always ended with, “Well, whatever, this is all stupid anyway and my opinion doesn’t matter.”
Since I was younger I’ve always had this idea of how I “should” be and getting mad at myself for not being that other than accepting the way I am and not viewing it as a negative thing.
I’m a loner, and you know what? I don’t mind it. I have found myself subconsciously choosing that lifestyle while verbally saying I don’t want it, but it is who I am. I enjoy my solitude. Of course, it gets lonely, but I also felt the loneliness of those around me at this event – it’s why their smiles where wider than mine, why their laughs were more audible. They were like a living version of the Instagram station – from my far away view I could see how they shuffle their feet, clench their drinks, twirl their hair, but when right in front of you saying the right thing, smiling, and they’re filtered by your own desire to make a good impression. They find comfort in people. That’s beautiful. I find comfort in people, also, but in a different way. I find it by watching them, internalizing their words, contemplating the emotions of strangers. And that is beautiful, too.
There’s a beauty in being a loner. I find myself pulled to more extroverted people, and I enjoy that they can provide a perspective that I don’t possess. However, whereas in the past I would think that’s how I should be I have tuned into how others react to my perspective, and generally it’s with the same interest that I meet theirs. I just didn’t realize it then, at fifteen, because I was too busy thinking I should be different.
The media, our parents, siblings, friends, towns, whatever can make us feel like we should be different than we are. They aren’t the real enemy, though, the only real enemy would be yourself if you decide to believe it. Resilience and trust yourself. I’m working on it. Hell, it’s easy to write, but for a few days I’ll feel self-conscious for writing this even though the tracker will say ten people (if I am luckybut) of the 400 on my Facebook friends list will read this – roughly four percent if that’s how math works. But hell I did it anyway.