Sounds of the night squeeze their way through the shut and locked door of my hostel accommodation. Sounds of clinking glasses and flirtatious laughter. Sounds of people outside effortlessly participating in the pursuits of their primal drive to be social and happy. As the majority of the other hostel residents subtly top up their plastic cups with pre purchased and smuggled drinks in preparation for a night out in the Australian backpacker mecca of Cairns, I sit alone in my single bed lodging and shuffle through my old collection of safety net excuses that allow me lenience to not participate another occasion I wish I was a part of. I’ll occasionally get up and chance an awkward stroll through the masses to retrieve a can from the communal fridge, silently willing some act of inclusion to pull into the orbit of the people I feel so alien to while paradoxically doing all I can to avoid eye contact.
As far back as I can remember I’ve always been told I appear angry, moody or standoffish. That news somehow never helped achieve what I can only imagine was the informant’s intent to offer helpful advice but only pushed me more inwardly guarded. There’s a well trod path in my psyche these days that long ago concluded I can drink, pop and snort my way over the awkward point on the social hill. It concluded this due to the many times it has been reinforced by being proven to be correct. Like a reflex I reach for a crutch to steady me upright as the weak knees of anxiety have me wobbling. Where the pattern began I’m not entirely sure, more concerned with the fix offering fastest results. I’ve often felt a yawning vacuum between myself and most of those I come across, even though my rational and spiritual self is aware there isn’t one. As time went by I managed to develop and cultivate different personas that could take the drivers seat in any number of situations. Those that worked best I would allow free reign of the controls and found myself more an observant passenger, onlooking with mild curiosity as though watching a movie I believed I could turn off at any time. While sedated and subdued these characters lived out my fantasies and desires better than I felt I could. At least to the point as far as they were able, but would all inevitably reach a point where the script would run out and I would find myself slammed back into the captains chair often having just hit an iceberg. Bullshitting is only helpful as far as you are able to keep it up. Eventually I would find a tripping point and watch how fast the smoke screen would evaporate.
This was my life up until very recently. A cycle I was unaware of participating in where the insulated walls of bluffery I’d been carefully cultivating around myself in an ironic attempt to reach out and connect with the world outside found their limits in the form of my leading personas (the ones people seemed to like more that the real me) finally creating more questions than I had an answer prepared for and again I found myself undeniably alone and unprotected leading to a month long self imprisonment to my bedroom, pissing into bottles and accepting food through my bedroom window off confused looking delivery men. Unable to find any logic in the situation or feel I could face even those I’d known longest, comforted mildly by flickering beginning to a curious concept and holding onto it like a life preserve. Freedom.
I don’t think I’d been able to consider the true meaning of the notion hitherto. I had successfully manufactured a prison for myself in my lavish blind attempts to deny a fundamental truth connecting all human beings. We are all alone. This truth can be as uncomfortable and confronting as that that we are all going to also one-day die. We understand it to be true while subconsciously never coming to terms with it or attempting to refute its certainty. It finds a tidy little place at the back of our mind and sits there waiting as we force our way along a path and there it remains like some half told joke. It seems only the careless, brave or fortunate few are able to look upon this situation without the inbuilt lens of fear.
It was only in finally being faced with, forced to ponder and finally accepting my true ‘aloneness’ that I am able to now draw strength unlike any I’ve before held. A strength that understands, if I am all I have then I am all I can or should rely on, everything else is outside of my control. Accepting this came with a divine relief and true sensation of freedom. Freedom from my preconceived notions of my place and expectations I held for myself or that others held for me. A freedom that kicks down the doors of pretext, unapologetically announcing my genuine presence to a room without fear of reprisal. The kind of freedom that those I was once so consumed with trying to impress with smoke and mirrors now find themselves inexplicably drawn in by. It is my understanding that we all have a very unique transmission that we deliver to the world and it is only ever a question of if we are allowing it to be heard or erring on the side of subconscious silence. It is not unusual to confuse feelings of aloneness with those of disconnect as they start at separate ends but tend to intersect in the middle.
It is being said there is a mental health issue in the western world. I cannot pretend to be an authority on this or extend my understanding that far. I do understand better now than ever the mechanics of my own mental stability and now celebrate their highs with the lows as they are unquestionably tied. I have started to lay aside the crutches I once groped for to aid the stability of my trip and look at anything being used in exchange of our natural ability to problem solve (those either attained in the back seat of a strangers car or over the counter at a chemist with a script from another stranger) as inescapably destructive when used as a Band-Aid. The way I’ve found strength is a continued and persistent attention to working those muscles.
While we are all alone in our journey we are far from separate. Through allowing myself the freedom to be me, alone in this room while a party rages outside my door I continue to amass strength in small portions. A small personal victory here and there, a rise to a challenge, a conquering of a fear. There is no quick fix. No crutch or character that can carry us forever. There is only me and only you. Alone and together, unlike anyone before us while just exactly the same. All I can do is continue to make, sometimes indecipherably small steps forward under the increasingly less timid guidance of my genuine self. That’s why as I reach the end of this typing-tirade I now sit in the courtyard out side my hostel door surrounded by people, occasionally smiling at passers by and joining in with the human race, if only to show myself I can.