On Loneliness

"You should probably learn to read a book by yourself," Erin tells me.

She's right. I should learn. I'm not an infant, SIDS doesn't apply to me anymore, my lungs have been working on their own for 18 years. It is time that I breathe alone.

But it's so hard. It's like breathing at altitude, my lungs seizing up as I'm stranded, alone in the angry ice and sharp sideways snow, on top of a mighty mountain chain. For some, being alone is natural. It's a solo sojourn on a white sand beach, the sound of their own pulmonary system is all they need. I envy them, their stupid self-reliance. 

I'm trying to learn to spend time alone. To sit by myself quietly without wanting to cry, to go places by myself, to put an end to my addiction to the buddy system. 

Yesterday, I walked from my apartment to Wallingford to attend a meeting of science writers. I've always heard people say that when they travel alone, they make new friends. I called bullshit. But being at this meeting by myself, without a buddy to sit and chat with in the corner of the room, I was forced forward, I introduced myself to someone. Alone, I made a friend. 

There is an irony in this. That I would go someone to prove my resolve, to test my abilities of aloneness, and come away with a friend is a funny thing. But I guess even those naturals, the ones on the long strips of sea and sand, breathing peacefully, even they need friends, need to resurface, to compare notes and ensure they are inhaling and exhaling in time with the world.

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