Who am I? A question many can avoid throughout the duration of their life. Some, may never have to answer this, others, spend their whole lives in search of their answer, and the rest, hopefully, find peace in the fluidity of discovery and rediscovery. For me, this was a question that fluttered my mind often growing up, and I rarely indulged the idea, mostly because I didn’t yet have to, I was encased by the safe womb of familiarity. I existed amongst people who lacked the same curiosity, and continued to suppress the thought, maybe even out of fear, for what I might learn, or fear I would never quite find my answers. We’ve already established fear is useless, because I did find my answers, and still continue to every day.
Isolation very well may be the most powerful experience we as humans encounter. I’m not referring to isolation as being stranded on a remote island and making friends with a volley ball, Tom Hanks style - Isolation can be many things, it can be experienced in a room full of companions, even family, or it can be experienced in the hours you find yourself physically or emotionally alone. I spent the first 17 years of my life in the constant presence of other people, whether it be my older sister (whose presence I didn’t exactly prefer at the time), or my mother (hers either, sorry mum), but mostly friends.. Friends. We experience isolation a multitude of times throughout our time on Earth, sometimes for just moments, others, for much longer periods of time. This is a feeling no one really gets used to, at least not in my experience. In my opinion, isolation is not the fault of any given person, it’s the result of circumstance, a prerequisite to personal growth.
I didn’t quite realize how alone I felt until I was a teenager; At that age, my parents and family were the enemy, and my friends were my saviors, despite the fact that I felt deeply connected to no one. But how could they connect to me? I hadn’t yet connected with myself, none of us had. However, at that time, I wasn’t aware of this, I thought I was grown, wiser than the world. I believed I had simply outgrown a small town and that chapter of my life, I was certain college would bring me the company I so deeply craved. Wrong.
College was a step, I had vowed to only let people into my life, who made me feel as if I were not alone. A lot of pressure to put on a bunch of 18 year olds huh? I still hadn’t learned that these people were not responsible or capable of giving me what I was looking for. Hell, I didn’t even know what I was looking for. I did, in fact, find friends, who gave me some of the best company, but these relationships were still missing a vital ingredient - me.
Moving to Cincinnati was a far easier choice to make than leaving for college; it wasn’t too far, I had already done the ‘packup and go’ ordeal a time or two, yes, it was more bittersweet given that I had finally found that good company I’d wished for, but ultimately, I knew my search had only just begun… Little did I know what I was soon to find. I moved into an apartment with 3 guys, only previously knowing one. Two of my three roommates were full time students, and the other had a full time job. As you may have already begun to assume… I spent a lot of time alone. A lot. It took 3 months for me to get a full time job, and in this time I found myself going to the grocery store for human interaction (my life got quiet, cut me some slack). Between visits to Whole Foods, who took most of what remained in my savings, I spent time in a cafe, where the actual remainder of my savings was spent. I was surrounded by a store full of people, a cafe full of chatter, and I was entirely absent.
Music can only drown out so much of the noise in your head, eventually, you listen, willingly or not. I resisted, for a while, but eventually, I caved, allowing my thoughts to flood my conscious - the good, the bad, the worse. I was consumed, entirely in my self, for the very first time. At first, these thoughts mostly consisted of things like “if every time I blinked, an item on this earth disappeared, would everything be gone by the time I die?,” safe to say I’m no visionary, but eventually these thoughts began to evolve, generating wholesome questions, “Who am I?,” “Why am I me?,” What makes me, me?” These thoughts, I chose not to fight, but to answer, on my own terms. I can be anyone I want to be, of that, I am certain, because only I control me. The manifestation of Skylar.
Now, I do not believe that I am in control of concocting a whole new person I was never meant to be, but I do believe I am capable of being better than my predisposed character traits. Traits that I didn’t understand or acknowledge, things that I was exposed to before I can remember and others that unknowingly impacted me during years of development. Instead of resisting my innate desire of ‘self’ i gave into it, so I could then learn from it; Not to correct it, but guide it. I stopped trying to change who I am at my core, and instead tried to understand why I am who I am. I was already who I am, but I wasn’t in the driver seat - a planet orbiting without it’s sun. I could catch the light of the qualities I liked within myself, and push them to the surface, while learning to not only manage, but understand, the qualities I wasn’t so comfortable with. Much of that discomfort, otherwise known as insecurity, was rooted in a deep sense of uncertainty of self. The more I knew myself, the less I feared. The less I feared myself, the less I feared isolation.
The year I spent in Cincinnati, I began to learn the reasons I get sad, and what prompts me to give in to tears, I learned that I do not like to be angry, not because I turn into a blood craving fein, but because I quite literally don’t like the feeling of my heart racing with frustration, I am happy often, but only rarely catch myself in a moment of pure bliss, I began to recognize what a fake laugh sounded like and why I felt so inclined to mimick a real one... I learned a lot. Truthfully, I didn’t learn these things alone, there were people in that year, who made an effort to understand me as I was trying to understand myself. They took interest in learning my ‘why’s’ just as I had, and that felt good to me. It began to feel like I wasn’t alone; Not because they were present, but because I was. When I was alone in my apartment, I was comforted by a new friend, someone I had longed to meet for too many years, myself.
This may have been the first time I discovered myself - aside from a bizarre childhood memory I have of noticing my conscious for the very first time - but it would not be the last. I would lose myself many times to come, only to find my self again. Currently I am found, but I know this is not permanent, because just like everything else on this Earth, I will grow and evolve, shed an old skin to come into a new one… only now, I do not fear it, I look forward to it. I look forward to all the future versions of myself, I take comfort in knowing my core will remain, that sense of self will never be far, and I am confident now. In any isolation, I will have me.
I hope you find you.
To a future me, who will probably only read this again when you’re feeling lost: When you are feeling alone, remember that the alternative is having a space occupied with bodies, not company. Respect yourself enough to grant yourself isolation when the alternative is artificial. Fill the empty space with yourself, be the person you want to be around, eventually you will come to find the people who deserve to be. Don’t rush relationships for momentary satisfaction, it will take time. The storm is just as vital as the sun, it’s easy to get caught up in the darkness when things are not going well, just as it’s easy to neglect appreciation when things are great. Have awareness of where you are and how it may be dictating your perception. Take a look around you. What isn’t serving you? Who or what is inhibiting your goals? More importantly, is it you? Keep looking. You are the only one who can answer your questions.