Writing and photographs by Imogen Woods
I used to struggle a lot with feeling lonely, something a lot of people feel when they move to university.
Coming from an environment where I barely had to be alone, I didn’t know how to do it, it terrified me completely, how can you experience something without sharing it with someone else? I felt like I needed other people to validate my existence, turning me into being needy and desperate for company, which of course leads people to find you incredibly unattractive and sprint the other way. Spending so much time alone made me feel ill, I’d get headaches and was engulfed by lethargy. I could barely leave the house. My jaw would ache from clenching it so hard and I felt like ripping my hair from its follicles in frustration. I was so absorbed in my loneliness that I couldn’t see that my own company is just as good, if not better than any one else’s.
So I practised being alone, I gave myself two months to learn how to be ok with being alone. I took myself on day trips to art galleries and went for coffee. I went to gigs by myself. I did things I loved to do with other people by myself. At first it sucked. I’d drink my coffee in 10 minutes. I’d whiz round the art gallery and not discuss what I saw with myself. I bathed in loneliness, I let it dampen my hair and wrinkle my fingers, I let it wash through me and lather on my skin. Then I let it go.
I’d turn down my friends asking me to go for a drink in favour of a self love night of pizza, yoga and face masks. I spent hours in the park reading books listening to Ludovico Einaudi (the soundtrack to my solitude) and finally, I went to Barcelona 3 weeks ago by myself, I sat in the Spanish sun and spent my days sitting in tapas bars eating croquettes and drinking sangria but despite being alone, it was the happiest I’d felt in a long time. I went to a photography exhibition by Darcy Padilla and walked round it three times tears trailing down my cheek, because I was so moved by the morbid selection of photographs, something I couldn’t have done in company. I took myself to a beautiful restaurant and had a three course meal taking the time to mindfully appreciate every bite. The trip marked the end of the two months, I felt an overwhelming sense of pride that I managed to spend a few days in a foreign country by myself, when previously spending more than a day by myself would break me out in a sweat. It was like an indie summer rom com film where the girl falls in love with some guy who has a shaggy hair cut, plays harmonica and wears a duffle coat. Plot twist….I fell in love with myself.