A lot of people avoid solitude because they’re afraid of being lonely, but as I recently heard on a radio program, solitude is necessary for real creativity. Schools and businesses like to have brainstorming sessions and work in teams, but according to the expert on the radio, this only lets the most assertive person’s ideas prevail, who may or may not have the best ideas. More creative results happen when introverts are given a project before meetings to work on by themselves. Since bosses are often extroverts, they usually don’t understand why the introverts want or need to work alone.
I don’t know if I was born an introvert or became one by my environment. I didn’t have much choice about solitude when I was growing up. Living in the woods made me look forward to church and school so I could play with other children. Sometimes I was heartbreakingly lonely, but I also figured out ways to be self-entertaining. In the end, I decided to like my own company because no company is better than bad company.
Envy is a motivator in our culture, but it’s isolating. It pushes us to conform to what we think other people expect from us, whether or not those things are true to our natures or make us happy. When we give up ourselves, we can be lonely in a crowd. When I was alone in the woods, I might be jealous of kids who lived in town because they had neighbor kids to play with, but I had plenty of things to do. I didn’t have to conform to what anybody else wanted, and the freedom of solitude is something that a lot of people never experience. In some ways, I was lucky to be lonely – even though there were times I complained about living the experience.
It seems to be human nature to rank ourselves in hierarchies. Is our social status based on beauty, athleticism, intelligence, achievements, bank account, ancestry, or whatever, and how can we climb up a rung on the ladder? When we’re alone, there’s no one to compete against except ourselves. The only one judging us is ourselves – and we’re taught those judgments by others. Babies in the crib don’t worry about whether their smiles are good enough. When I stuck feathers in my hair, draped my neck with flower leis, made jewelry out of cicada shells, and dabbed myself with pine resin for perfume, nobody was there to tell me that I looked funny and cut it out. I swam naked in the river and had absolute freedom without worrying about whether my arms, legs, nose, mouth, fingers, toes were the right shape. The right shape for what? To justify my existence? Should I modify myself to conform to someone else’s concept of what I “should” be? Quit swimming because someone might see? Who? That was kind of the point. There wasn't anyone to see.
We’ll never make everybody happy by being ourselves, but that’s their problem. They’re working out their own envy/hierarchy issues. When we quit worrying about them, we’re free to really open up our enjoyment of life and our creativity. When I was grown up, I told a friend I was practicing for when I could be an eccentric old lady. He said I could quit practicing. It's one of the joys I get from being a feral child in the woods :)