Look at the world’s greatest works of literature surrounding self exploration, love, and fulfillment and one cannot help but fall on the same idea, albeit said in a multitude of ways: the answer is you.
I think the answer, at times, is also isolation.
It’s a pity this word, isolation, carries so much weight, and now, so much bitterness: lives lost and youth “wasted away.” The former, though it has not touched my life directly, weighs heavy on my spirit, and the latter, I must turn away from, as I cannot co-sign to the belief that anything occurs without some meaning; there can be no waste.
My isolation, in part, first came some time ago, far before our world of Zoom and societal collapse, and possibly before I even recognized its existence. It came about as a byproduct of discovering how the presence of empty space can at once feel so full, and rooms at capacity feel like desolate wastelands. As we balance our way through life, I think we naturally find ourselves recalibrating, adjusting to our environments, preparing for new challenges.
So, what is the need for all of this? The answer is you. An answer to an equation equating to an algorithm of epic proportions or possibly it’s something so simple as choosing what you care for the most. These kinds of mental acrobatics are so characteristically what isolation feels like. At once, the world is so complicated and so easy, and you have all this time, so why not swing from place to place, knowing the net below will catch you?
Thankfully, my resolve, even in this space of hoops and loops through the mind, has always been one of peace. This isolation is not forced, as there are no bars, no guards, or distant cell mates peering in as they are dragged past. I can go when I please, and I love it. I worship that, especially when I look around to see the people that cannot leave; their isolation a chain around their neck, with no lock and no key. Or better yet, the people living from the outside, starkly blind to what stirs within.
To choose to isolate, stripped bare of any context or any ensuing global pandemic, could be so perfectly, the most beautiful act of self love. We have so little time on this Earth, and we run around trying to experience and love all of its creations. It’s no surprise our most neglected, least frequented destination lies within, thought to be deserted for so long. Very rarely, often unnoticed even, we do find the space to isolate, dust off the cobwebs, and feel the resolve of knowing nothing while somehow having it all.
In isolation, the most mundane tasks become acts of kindness to oneself. I imagine this is because in isolation there is no one else to point the finger at, no one else to clean the dishes. Alas, very few care to live alone with a tyrant; at least not for long, so we try to be our own best guests and hosts. I hum along, a certain pep in each scrub, as I scrape off the grime of the pots and pans of my soul. I wonder what I will work on each day, and the new things I will find on this never ending road to enlightenment. I feel that is all that isolation is, a road to endless new things. For in isolation, the possibilities are endless, the dissolute spirit left to run amuk, drawing on the walls and assessing one’s desires.
I guess the real beauty, as one might guess now, is that isolation can be everything you want it to be or nothing at all, and that’s fine too. It can be a depth of love so deep and undiscovered, things you thought you could only feel for another human. Like an excavation of the soul, driven by the mission to find something new, and for once not unrequited.
Isolated, ages ago, I had begun this process. Like Jumanji, the game began, the rules unraveling as I went along, and the stakes, shockingly low. You see, you have nothing to lose in a game for your own affection.
I will gladly choose my isolation today, especially as I think of other moments. Funnily the ones that stand out, are the darkest times, my body screaming to be alone, to recover, and to make sense of something, anything. These moments, surrounded by people, gorgeous people, who I am allowed to miss, but also keep at a distance. For once, I can close my eyes. For now, I’ve seen enough.
“The answer is you.” I want it in textbooks, on billboards, and in each song. The secret is out, spread the news. No more love songs and no more rom-coms. Your greatest, your best, is isolating, waiting, and thinking.
Oh, all that time spent trying to find other solutions. I reflect now on the adventures and the trials and tribulations. They say you travel far enough and you wind up back home. Like the world’s longest game of “Knock, knock.” “Who’s there?”
We take so many paths, and even as I sit in one room, in one spot, it’s like miles and miles of thoughts stretch out ahead of me, and my legs never grow tired. As I look around myself, this vast expanse of the mind, I’m allowed to feel left out. This is the price of isolation though––something to miss, somewhere to be, people to see. What is gained in isolation, however, somehow rests outside our social currency––something I can never exchange.
I’m realizing isolation does not have to be alone. I have not only myself, but there will be others, visitors to my sanctuary, knocking first as I tidy up. They will be loved, cherished, and respected, even after they go. Resolutely, I hope they do go, and leave me as they came. For if they have not already, I hope they find their isolation, their peace in a world that so cruelly steals from us the one thing we so desperately need––ourselves.
The answer will never be somebody else. As much as your heart aches, your body searches in the night for an outstretched hand, and your mind craves for someone else’s stories; the answer key will always remain the same. I know now, more than ever, that I have me. In a world of changing seasons, a life of leaps into the unknown, and a soul that feels so deeply, I will never be alone.