real life

“I am here alone for the first time in weeks, to take up my “real” life again at last. That is what is strange – that friends, even passionate love, are not my real life unless there is time alone in which to explore and to discover what is happening or has happened. Without the interruptions, nourishing and maddening, this life would become arid. Yet I taste it fully only when I am alone…”
– May Sarton


“Stillness is vital to the world of the soul. If as you age you become more still, you will discover that stillness can be a great companion. The fragments of your life will have time to unify, and the places where your soul-shelter is wounded or broken will have time to knit and heal. You will be able to return to yourself. In this stillness, you will engage your soul. Many people miss out on themselves completely as they journey through life. They know others, they know places, they know skills, they know their work, but tragically, they do not know themselves at all. Aging can be a lovely time of ripening when you actually meet yourself, indeed maybe for the first time. There are beautiful lines from T. S. Eliot that say:
‘And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.'”

The joy of solitude

I’m here in Kanazawa on a two-week solo trip. I’m not really doing anything special here. My goal of being here – if there is one – is to be by myself and to reclaim some silence. As an antidote, I guess, to the busy-ness of my life back in Singapore.

I’m walking a lot here, since the Airbnb I live in is about, on average, 2km away from most places I wanna see around here (museums, cafes, Samurai houses, etc). I also rented a bike, although most days I still prefer to walk – the pace suits me better (and being on a bike still feels way too fast and not slow enough for me to savour the sights along the way).

Most of Kanazawa is criss-crossed by rivers and streams that are embedded among residential neighbourhoods and shops, so now, after a week of being here, I hardly have to use Google Maps anymore. I simply follow the curves of the streams, knowing that as long as there is the sound of water flowing, I am on the right path towards wherever I wanna go.

I enjoy being alone here very much. And generally, I enjoy being alone anywhere very much. It’s only when I am alone that I can really meet myself and hear myself. I often have the experience of feeling disoriented after spending a long time not being alone. It’s almost like being surrounded by other people constantly (no matter how much I love these people) causes my internal channels to get clogged up, and for that reason it becomes difficult to know what I want. Traveling solo is a way for me to declog my internal channels, to recalibrate, to clean up my mind and find my direction again.

I wrote something related to this on Instagram awhile ago, which I still believe in:

“How would you know what is really important to you if you never have time and space to listen to yourself? How would you know what are the essential things to pursue and keep in your life if all you do is run frantically on the treadmill of life? How could you be happy if you never allow yourself to rest, to wander, to not be found by others? There are all kinds of invisible rules that imprison us to a life that we never wished for. But the rules are not real. Someone made them up. I think if we want to live a happy life we must learn to unlearn those rules and live according to what is personally important to us. But for that to happen we must first have the time and space to think, to be alone, to hear our own thoughts. We must have ‘a room of one’s own’. We must have our very own well that we can climb down to whenever the noise becomes too loud, the chores become overwhelming. May you find your own room, your own well, wherever that might be.”

My well is right here, wherever I am alone.