Toes buried in the sand to escape the cold. Sleeves overhanging arm’s length by an inch. Seated on a log facing North-East; the city in view. The Westwardly sunset in view only insofar as the cityscape reflects its glow. Two persons perched on a log. Topics of conversation include: Blink-182; google reviews; and, unfortunately, work.
Eventually—perhaps inevitably—a meditation arises: why is it so difficult to spend time with oneself? Rather, why do I prefer the company of anyone—or thing—to myself?
Imagine: heading out on a walk sans a good tune; going to sleep without your best f.r.i.e.n.d.s; commuting to work without a podcast playing; waiting for the bus, phone still packed away.
Heartbreaking fantasies, aren’t they?
To be fair, the aforementioned hypotheticals might well be inefficient uses of time. After all, when else is a person expected to discover new music? Or unwind after a tedious day at work? There simply aren’t enough unoccupied hours in a day. Still, why is it that I—and perhaps you too—feel the compulsion to fill all of these crevices in a day with menial (relatively speaking, of course) activities. Why not, instead, put the phone (or book—this post is hardly a rant against screen time specifically) away and spend time with oneself.
After all, a(ny) relationship takes time and effort. I only know my sister’s favourite colour because I’ve asked. And I only know that she’s no good at table tennis because we’ve played together. There are literally thousands of micro-instances that constitute my knowledge of my sister, and they have spanned over a twenty-two year lifetime, each a symbol of my prioritization of my sister (and her prioritization of me) over any other available possibility. My knowledge of my sister is the sum of its parts. If I had chosen (conveniently, for the sake of this example) to listen to music on every occasion I was situated in conversation with my sister over the course of her life, my knowledge of her would be, without a doubt, stunted. And the same goes for any person I choose to invest in in my life. I know only insofar as I try to know.
What troubles me is that I can’t see why my knowledge of myself would be any exception. How could I know everything there is to know about myself? Especially if I believe (and I do) that I am a constantly changing individual, susceptible to being inspired, manipulated and shifted by the social and psychological climates I find myself in. Thus, if I was interested in claiming confidently that I know myself, it would require the type of constant and rigorous effort a best-friend-ship, or marriage, should require. Troubling still: I know that I do not invest that much effort in getting to know me.
I only urged against listening to music and scrolling through digital feeds because we so often do while we are alone. We treat time alone as if it is to be jettisoned; as if it is scrap time worth only half the value of time spent with others or spent doing something. I believe, however, that we’ve been gifted moments of solitude in an otherwise too other-centric routine of life. We ought to take advantage of these moments of solitude in this life long quest to discover self.
Finally, the pair lift off the log and mosey through the sand with only a faint sense of direction. Their trajectory takes them away from the water; the swells of waves slowly disappear from the sonic landscape. His toes dry and cold; lightly eroded by their digging into the sand for warmth. They part ways, each to their own vehicle. His heart heavy with thoughts like a soaked shirt. He dusts his feet and packs into his car. Music plays on cue with the engine’s start. He turns it up loud; loud enough to relinquish himself of his damp thoughts.
Perhaps Camus was right; forever I shall be a stranger to myself.