a reminder from chris mccandless

8 September 2015

I have always taken pride in my introverted nature – I felt it gave me the unique ability to truly enjoy being alone. And so it did. When others would anxiously search for a travel buddy or even a quick-stop-to-Safeway partner, I would secretly scoff and revel in the fact that I was perfectly capable and actually preferred the precious moments that I had to myself. When parties got too boisterous, I would sneak out of a side door and walk home, wistfully alone and introspective. When people got to be too much, I would abruptly excuse myself and find a quieter corner with which to muse by myself and to myself.

And yet my time alone in Tel Aviv has taken on a uniquely strange and, I must admit, frankly disconcerting quality. My time here alone has me feeling – well – alone.

It is not hard to see why: for ten days, I was carted around Israel with a busload of interesting and funny and new people. For ten days, I was never wanting when it came to fascinating company, a quick gossip catch up, a much-needed deep conversation. And at the end of it all, I was left with an armful of treasured memories, each one shared, each one connected to the thirty-nine people who were now walking away from me onto a plane, a bus, a taxi.

My first day alone in Tel Aviv was a glorious moment – I walked where I wanted to walk, I ate when I wanted to eat, I swam when I wanted to swim. I had no obligations, no alarms, nobody to tie me down. I was free.

Or so I thought.

My next day alone was a little more languished, a little more forced. I walked down streets I had already walked down and ate at places I had already eaten at and swam at beaches I had already swam at. Here I have this whole city to myself and yet I can’t quite think of what to do with it! So I hunted down theatres and bookstores and boutique shops to find new ways to spend my time. But each step felt wrong, each path incorrect, each shop duller than the last.

What is happening to me? I wondered, aghast that I was not revelling completely in my newfound alone time, time that I had so longed for not five days ago.

It hadn’t hit me until I was talking with my best friend from home that what happened to me is that I realised what I’ve quoted and written down and thought about since my senior year of high school is actually, profoundly, obviously true. Chris McCandless discovered, just before his anguished death after seeking solitude from humanity,

Happiness [is] only real when shared.”

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve said this and thought about it and told it to other people. How strange it seems to me now that I took pride in my ability to be alone, to seek solitude, to pursue isolation from the thing that actually gives me the most joy. While I am indeed an introvert, it does not need to mean that I gain nothing from human interaction – quite the contrary, I seem to gain everything from human interaction! If nothing else, the past two weeks have shown me that my very sanity and source of happiness is derived from just the opposite of what I once thought.

People, company, connections are what I should be seeking. For it is there that my happiness truly lies, there that it rests, there that it has always waited for me, nestled inside a hug, a laugh, a joke, a moment.

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