When the world is telling you to be alone

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I was sitting on my bed per usual stroking my cat Lily when she decided enough was enough and swiftly jumped off my lap. The rejection stung for a mere 20 seconds and I got on reading my book. That’s something I’ve always respected about cats, when they want to be alone, they make it happen. No worrying about people’s feelings, no second guessing.  I used to be like that, when I wanted some alone time from the bustle of my life I took some time away from it. I would travel alone, climb a mountain, read a book, anything that allowed for those precious moments on my own.

Don’t confuse being alone for loneliness. I enjoy one but not the other.  Breaking up with friends, even if you haven’t fought, or splitting up with a boyfriend can leave you feeling lonely. I was rebounding from both. The problem wasn’t necessarily either, but this overwhelming obligation to go finding new friends and a partner almost immediately. You see being in my late 20s I’ve heard the phrase ‘you’re not getting any younger’ a lot. Despite my reluctance to ever be tied down by a husband or children, those words start to wear on you. The worst part is you start to believe that you should be following what society is ordering you to do.

However society and the world are not the same thing. As I aimlessly went from date to date, the world was giving me strong hints that I wasn’t ready to settle. Job offers from abroad started to appear in my inbox.  Friends living in different parts of world extending invites, my father at almost 82 reminding me it’s my life and telling me diligently on his hospital bed about his regrets for not experiencing more from life. I kept ignoring the signs, until one day lying in Bloomsbury Square appreciating the London sun while listening to The Cure’s Just Like Heaven, a final attempt to elevate my spirits, a student from South America asked me for directions. He was meeting friends at The Museum Tavern, I directed him the best I could with my broken Spanish. He thanked me back in English, not before saying ‘everyday is an adventure in London’. That’s when it hit me, I had lost the adventure in my life. My depression, lack of self esteem and excitement was down to my routine, the shear boredom of repeated days. When I got into that routine, I felt the time slip through my hands and it frightened me. No. It terrified me.

Then I went back to the library, opened a tab up and started searching for interns abroad, cheap plane tickets, field schools, anything- just adventure. And when I do find it, I’ll make sure to make the most of it.

Can you fall in love after a day?

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‘Six months from now, we’ll meet here,’ those are the parting words Jesse tells Celine after spending an incredibly intense day with her in Vienna. They promise each other to meet at the same spot in six months. Instead of dismissing it as simply a holiday fling, they recognise their love after just a day. During their time together they had connected, chatted about the existence of a god, reincarnation, death, and their failed romantic relationships then consummated their love in a public park. The first time I had watched the film (almost 10 years ago) I was left wondering: is it possible to fall in love after just a day? Is it totally plausible to meet someone,  connect on a deeper level and then realise that they’re your soul mate, love of your life, possibly even  life partner? The 19 year old me was a total sceptic but nevertheless kept returning to that movie and its sequel Before Sunset.

The truth was my 19 year old self loved the concept of Jesse and Celine in Before Sunrise, but as the years went by I realised I was more like Tom from 500 Days a Summer. But how do you define love or being in love? Does it matter if someone feels the same way? Does the depth of that love change when it takes longer for romantic feelings to develop? I’ve always wanted the sort of love that Celine had for Jesse.  Then it miraculously happened,  we met in an unconventional way but after the first exceedingly awkward ten minutes, we delved into social identity, travel, and archaeology. We would sit in the pub and talk for hours while slowly getting more and more drunk, we ‘d discuss the universe, parallel dimensions, photography, anything going. The next few days were invigorating, almost like I had only started living at 28. And like Celine, I can pinpoint the very moment I had fallen in love, he was standing in the kitchen talking on his phone and he looked up at me. I’d known him the grand sum of three days. Like Celine and Jesse I knew we would eventually part ways, I was too neurotic, while he was too laid back. Remember, the saying is not staying balanced in love, it is falling, losing your self to love.

Duration doesn’t matter,  it was surprising to me that I could have such intense feelings after three days despite being in long-term relationships that had lasted more than a year. Often it is that simple because being “in love” has so many variables including longevity. Being in love is such a beautiful thing and while it can be all-consuming and most definitely destructive, not everyone gets to experience that raw and deep connection. The experience is dramatic, intense and overwhelming. There are a lot of crazy choices you’ll make in life. If you get the chance, you should definitely allow yourself to be open to falling in love like Celine and Jesse… Even if it only lasts a day.