“[…]isolation. Isolation is the gift, all the others are a test of your endurance […]”
I have always loved the rain, the puddles, the moist earthly smell, the atmosphere, the gentle pitter-patter on the leaves; for me, it’s like being gently hugged or cradled by some unknown force (forgive the poetry but it’s true). I often spend this time alone listening from an open window, or venturing out on a solitary walk in the downpour like a complete and utter madman. This joy is mine alone it feels, in that moment, just me, and this. It takes me back to one of my first memories being walked in my pram, the plastic cover pulled over me, cocooned and safe, comforted by the now familiar pitter-patter of rain, my mother no more than a light whimper away. That inner child has remained it seems, and as I write this, listening from that open window, I am reminded of the inner place, where time seems to pause in contemplation of its own passing. And there lies the key to this whole story: ‘inner’.
It has always been my perception of the world that rather than being in it, I have always been on the inside looking out at it, as if having binoculars reversed and permanently taped to my head, everything on the outside looks distant and detached, everything inside magnified and scrutinised down to its very miniscule and seemingly fractal nature. Beyond this duality of perception lies the dreamscape, that wonderful place of fantasy and creation where reality frays at the edges and ideas form entire universes; furthermore, and only if I am lucky enough, somewhere past all of these, is that mysterious void, a place from which comes realisation and intuition, as brief and as memorable as a dream, requiring a form of conscious meditation perhaps, or sweetest of all, unexpected and sublime inspiration– the hairs stand on end. Occasionally, I am purely there in the moment, as outside as I am inside, but usually this means I am either very drunk, or in the great outdoors completely alone. Welcome, my friends, to my ‘inner’ world.
So, dare I define myself? Dare I say ‘I, a lover of solitude and thought, I, am, an INTROVERT’ whilst fist on heart looking teary eyed toward the sky. I could do, it sounds rather fun I must say, but to define is a dangerous game in itself, so let me tell a story instead.
Once upon a time, there was a young boy, this boy was both as deviant as he was pure, at school he would play up to the crowd and cause havoc, simply not understanding the adult concept of rules and the social obligations of achieving popularity, from the beginning it was never a game he was a part of, but he would try. He lied in order to stand out, played the fool, yearned to be accepted and ironically so, enjoyed attention for all the wrong reasons. This was a problem for a young boy who very quickly, virtually instantly, found himself in trouble – and enjoyed it. This world, after all, seemed a strange place to him, why not test and question it? Isolation came quick, too much of a distraction and too much of a thinker. Constantly separated from the others, he spent much of his time alone, never learning as the others did, and, as the boy was such a dreamer, when he was able to learn he was too busy being distracted, or thinking of wild fantasy worlds in which he were the hero. One thing was always apparent though, the boy had a profound heaviness in his heart and a constant disassociation from his immediate surroundings; he was just so excruciatingly aware both of himself and the bigger picture that he was never truly in the middle, in the moment, always just - somewhere else.
School carried on much the same, a mixture of chasing acceptance, pretending he didn’t care, being bullied or being in trouble; and his home life - a part of the story that is to remain his – was confusing to put it lightly, just another excuse to turn towards an inner world. At school, detentions and isolation became a playground for the imagination and being ‘naughty’ an opportunity for expressing himself and finding acceptance; that acceptance, of course, came from the wrong crowd.
Depression came early; perhaps it had always been there, certainly as a ten year old its touch was already apparent, such dark thoughts for a child. At just twelve years of age, he found drugs. Just a taste at first, a little weed, by thirteen it was a regular thing and by fourteen/fifteen, and with a large chip on his shoulder, he had his first love affair - ecstasy. This lost little boy had found an escape, no longer did he feel alone, and no longer did he care. At sixteen he dropped out of school and was already contemplating suicide, at seventeen he thought he might achieve it through pushing the drugs further and harder, but oh how he enjoyed that higher plane they gave him, the ecstasy of that swift shift of perception, the escape! The boundaries were dissolved, the doses were now obscene, it had become a case of just how much he could handle without dripping (yes dripping) off the edge; he found himself floating on the misted fringes of existence with only his inner dialogue for company, desperately fighting to pull him back from the brink. He was throwing himself into the lion’s cage and talking himself back out; bloodied and alone, this kid touched god, but in all the wrong places.
‘Why am I different?’ he often wondered, ‘is there something wrong with me?’ He couldn’t work out what it was. But this kid was once outgoing, a class clown; unorthodox, yes, but full of life, suddenly it was slipping away from him, the illusion he had as being an extravert had inverted itself and emptied his pockets on the floor.
As he entered his twenties all his ability to be social was gone, he had finally burnt out, and no drug could mask that anymore. Twenty-one, twenty-two, twenty-three passed by and with each year the problem had evolved into a self-aware catastrophe, pushing him further into escapism, bitterness and social-anxiety, his sanity dissolving daily. He tortured himself with failed attempts of extraversion, desperately scratching at being social and instead forcing awkwardness upon himself. He just had no idea how to be or what to do about it.
Then this boy met a girl, she didn’t save him, it’s not that kind of a story, but it gave him a chance to cut off. At first it was worse, a ‘chemical romance’ so to speak, but that passed as his desire for sobriety outweighed his desire for madness. No longer did he want to escape; he was sick of the people, sick of the world, and sick of the drugs. He fell in love, it didn’t work out, it was a wild relationship, but for 3 years he had another life. He had enough time out of the loop to actually realise a beginning.
By 27 the relationship had ended, but the thinking continued now in complete solitude. Sure, it was dark for him at first, very dark indeed, but something grew inside, a switch was flicked, and suddenly, from the ashes, he began to rise. His brain, finally sober, became a sponge for knowledge that he had never expected or given himself the chance to know, in solitude he began to have great and profound thoughts that he was almost scared to admit to for fear they were mad, but, they were not, they were the sanest words he had ever spoken. He began to write, as once he did as a kid – poetry, philosophy and ideas poured out like uncaged tears roaring with flames. A fire that had always been there was finally finding a voice, a path, an outlet. Soon for him it became apparent he wanted to do something with his writing, so, searching for structure, he enrolled at University and began studying literature. Then he took a step, he began reading poetry at open mic events; his confidence was growing; he was re-entering the world a new man; he found a power inside others he knew didn’t understand. Instead of fighting this reserved turn of mind, instead of fighting who he truly was inside, he accepted it, he accepted he needed solitude, he accepted sometimes he said nothing and the more comfort he found in silence the less silent he became. This introversion, entangled with depression, could be a tool that if harnessed might be the lining of its own cloud. That very same year, at 28, he stumbled across a troupe of actors who admired his confidence and spirit, and with no experience at all, he joined them. He now awaits the big show.
All this time he thought he had to be a ‘something’ that he wasn’t, what a sad cliché for many out there, and for all that time he was just denying himself. Only when he embraced who he was, however strange or different, did he find people accepting or, dare I say, admiring him. He still feels like an alien though, he isn’t cured; he is out there somewhere, searching the plains of reality for something he can’t explain, the boy still has dark times, he still gets confused and lonely, but on rainy days like today, he doesn’t care.