I stood in the sand with the waves washing against my feet. I faced the ocean, my face to the breeze. The water eroded the sand beneath my feet with each fresh wave.
I sank into the sand, slowly, for more than half an hour.
Loneliness rolls the worst emotions into one. When you feel lonely, you feel like no one cares and – equally important – like you can’t care for anyone else.
But I didn’t feel lonely.
Busan, the coastal city on the bottom of South Korea, boasts one of the best-known beaches in the country: Haeundae Beach. I’d ridden a bus there from Seoul by myself, a beautiful ride.
So standing in the water, sensing the tide, I didn’t feel lonely – I felt alone.
When you feel alone, you feel like you can’t share. The distance lets you think but keeps you from sharing what you’re thinking. The distance gives you space to feel but steals the opportunity to share in how others feel.
I loved where I stood on the beach that day, but I couldn’t stand keeping it to myself that way.
That’s aloneness: the space to realize how you’re feeling plus the gap that keeps you from sharing it.