There’s a crucial difference between being alone and being lonely, argues Mélissa Chan-Cheape. The Indiependent publish her piece just hours after The Telegraph published an article reporting that loneliness is deadlier than obesity and should be considered a major public health hazard.
I am sat on the top deck of a cruise liner. There are many young Spanish students my age all around me, either splashing about in the pool, or at the bar ordering cocktails. As for me, however, I am sat alone, at a five-seater table, surrounded by nothing but my Spanish exercise books. Sounds lonely, right? Incorrect. I am perfectly content, and let me tell you why.
I have always felt that there is a stigma about being seen alone, especially in a public place such as this. Onlookers may assume that I may have no friends, or something along those lines. This is a perfectly natural thought to have, as I myself have often found myself conjuring up some similar extravagant theories when I see an old man sat by himself in a bar. All of my imagined stories have the common theme that this poor, lonely guy must be heartbroken and left alone. But am I right in assuming that his wife left him and that he now spends his long days drinking his problems away? Fo course not. He is perhaps having a celebratory drink because she left him. Ha. Anyway, my point is, one should avoid assuming that a person who is alone is obviously lonely.
Indeed, someone may voluntarily choose to be alone. I recall discussing with some friends of mine their activities that one might enjoy doing alone. Watching Netflix alone in one’s room? Of course, this isn’t anything out of the ordinary. Reading a book in a local coffee shop all day long? Yes! How mysterious and intriguing. Going to the cinema alone?… I personally disagreed with this one, as I felt cinemas were solely for awkward first dates when a couple didn’t know what to say to each other, but my friend argued that when she went to the cinema alone, she thoroughly enjoyed herself as she was able to laugh as loudly as she wanted to without the fear of being judged by anyone but strangers she would never see again.
Being content in our own company appears to be the way to true happiness. I can place my hand on my heart and say that I am my own best friend. I do not feel the need for constant interaction, as I am perfectly content in my own company. It also takes a degree of confidence to go out and be seen enjoying oneself alone, such as queuing up for the cinema (a level of confidence I have not yet achieved).
So as I sit here, getting pitying looks from the passersby, I just smile. Yes, I am happy. Although I am alone, in no way am I lonely.
Words by Mélissa Chan-Cheape