When I was in Intermediate School, we went on a school camping trip to Okains Bay. I think it was only for two or three nights but as things do when you are quite young, it seemed like it was for a lot longer. It was my first time ever sleeping in a tent and it was pretty exciting. The sleeping arrangements were two or three to a tent and we were responsible for cooking our own meals on little camping gas cookers as part of our teams as well, something that we had planned ahead for in the weeks leading up to the trip. I remember being quite annoyed at a teacher telling me I had the gas up too high for the sausages I was cooking on the first night, when the gas was barely on! Oh the troubles of a twelve year old.
The entire trip was full of character building activities and also a lot of research assignments, as Okains Bay has quite a rich history. Despite the fact that the wee settlement only has a handful of people living there, it is a popular tourist spot for camping and holidays and even has a museum. But it was the character building activities that our teachers placed the most importance on. The trip was done every year with the same activities. Pitching our own tents and planning for and preparing our own meals being just the beginning.
The activity that sticks out for me the most, was the one simply called ‘Isolation.’ A teacher took us for a walk along the beach and amongst the rocks and dropped us off individually at points a few meters apart. We were able to see each other, but the noise of the sea drowned out any potential conversations we might have tried to yell at each other. After fifteen minutes we were all safely collected and returned to camp, everyone complaining about how alone and terrified they felt as if they would never have human contact again.
A lot of my classmates were freaking out about the isolation. No one wanted to do it, but I was secretly looking forward to it. As a child I spent a lot of time alone, reading and writing, in my own little world, away from my siblings and classmates. I was actually quite disappointed that we were placed so close together and that it was only for fifteen minutes. From where I was sitting on the rocks I could see at least four of my classmates and a lot of them were waving and signalling to each other, laughing, not being alone at all. In the weeks after the camp there were a lot of assignments related to the character building activities, including writing a diary style entry on our experience of the isolation. I regret what I wrote for my report. Based on everyone else’s reactions, I lied and said that I didn’t enjoy it and that I felt like I was never going to see people again. Pretty much what everyone else wrote, just to fit in. I still wish I had written how I really felt though, how nice it was to be perched atop the rocks by myself, looking out to sea, breathing in the salty air and just enjoying the moment.
As I’ve grown up, I’ve realised that I possibly wasn’t the only person who botched the assignment by just writing what I thought everyone else would. There are people, especially younger people who can’t handle being alone. They need to constantly be surrounded by people for entertainment or even just to feel validated. I had a friend a while ago who was like this, they used to pick me up from work all the time, just so that they didn’t have to be alone for at least those fifteen minutes, even though all they was doing was getting me home to my alone time faster. I often told them that I didn’t need a ride, because I felt like I was using them, but it was insisted upon. Occasionally I would have them over to hang out afterwards, but it was often quite awkward as it was apparent that I needed to be providing entertainment for them, they just needed to not be alone.
However there are also plenty of people, like me who thrive on being alone. I love my alone time. One of my favourite things ever is when I have the house to myself. It doesn’t matter what I do during that time. I might do some yoga, or watch some TV, read a book, do some writing, or turn up the music that ‘only I like’ loud and dance around to it. The only thing I try to avoid when I have the house to myself is cleaning. Cleaning is not my friend and I don’t want to ruin the little solitude time I get by filling it with an activity I don’t enjoy. That’s just counter productive.
Alone time is important for me, if I don’t get enough of it, it shows in my temperament. I get grumpy easier and also anxious. Alone time helps keep me sane. I like that time where nothing else matters, but me. I can do whatever I want at my own pace without any restrictions. I often find that if I have ‘scheduled’ alone time that gets cancelled or cut short, I get really angry and then a little desperate to replace the lost solitude. It’s one of the reasons I love going for walks by myself so much, especially after dinner or early in the morning when there is less activity in the world. It’s an enjoyable time where I can reflect on my own thoughts, process them and get rid of any of the negative ones. Reset myself if you will.
I wasn’t going to write this post today. I hadn’t decided at all what to write about for my regular Sunday post, until this morning, when I had the house to myself for a few hours and I stumbled across this post Solitude Is Like A Power Ballad from one of my favourite bloggers. As I was reading the eloquently written post, it reminded me in specific of that afternoon at Okains bay and how to this day, I still love to be alone, be it at home, out for a walk, or enjoying nature.
Smiles and Sunshine