I realized lately that I’ve long been a solitary person and that I should let myself be.
Not saying that as a child I wasn’t bubbly and beaming and excitable about everything––I was the brightest, loudest thing––and now that radiance is silent, scattered, and I’d like to believe, reaches the world far further than my voice could. That is, I’m learning that my form of love is best cultivated with distance.
Over the past year, I’ve been trying to detach myself from preconceptions about how distance alone creates loneliness, or that solitude means loneliness, or that love needs to be virtuously signaled in our faces. Like many burdens 21-year-olds face, none of these are particularly new and I bear no revelatory insights; it stands as one of those many things about life I felt like I had to experience to even begin getting, previously some aphorism I just half-heartedly agreed with.
Love, distant because I grew up in solitary bedrooms trying to name myself each day. I still hold a grudge for the way I lived in my bedroom in Manila, but I don’t know how else I would have turned out. Solitude cultivated the creation in me, an acute keenness to listen to the world and fill in the gaps for myself. I was and still am obsessive with creating artifacts and platforms that had no audience but myself –– never really asking anyone to read the draft (if I even bother to make one) or check something for me. All I desired, I did my best to bring into existence for myself.
Solitariness still makes people feel gravely uncomfortable. I find it mildly exhausting that “go watch a movie by yourself” or “go sit at a restaurant alone!” function as mindblowing affirmations. I used to feel awkward when eating out alone in the Philippines because of how tied to people accessing food out is (or, the fact that ‘going out’ means ‘you need money to go grab a meal since there’s nothing else to do but roam around a mall’) and think I look more depressing than cool&sexy&mysterious when smoking alone outside shows.
Spending the past month alone in a time when everyone is reuniting has been weirdly comforting. I’m more detached from the world but also more involved. I have less expectations, know no one owes me anything, and treasure every tiny thing with a new sense of grandeur. I listened quietly. My true wonder is expressed in silence. My most sincere expression of awe one held with peace.
I wake up to alarms twice a day and challenge myself to take care of myself. Take walks around a freezing town. Swap between two chairs and my couch. Listening to a frightening amount of ambient music, like a teenage boy discovering Robert Fripp and Burial for the first time. I listen especially carefully when there are my favorite sounds: a distant river where you can almost feel where the stones find the water rushing in laps around them, some chorus of cicadas, the sound of a child laughing. Become familiar with everything material I own, now crammed in this apartment, wonder what next new thing I can bring into this world. Learning more about the pace that I thrive in, giving my physical body attention attention, etc.
An image of myself where the heart is whole but I get the distance I need. I love myself and everything is clearer.
Love, in solitude and small doses because I barely know how to make space for my body in my head. I went on a drive with someone from college a few days before Christmas, my second time experiencing the holiday completely alone, and when they asked me who my friends are I said, “people very far away, who I don’t see face-to-face often.” At first that sounded really depressing! And then I decided it wasn’t. I know how to articulate and express my love better now that I’m farther. When I saw these same people every single day, with the exact same schedule, I was thinking that routine and physical presence must have served as the strongest declaration of knowing each other, but it was more ruthless and tiring than meaningful. I still do declare that love was routine and consistency, and with that the intentionality of distance as part of that –– I didn’t have that boundary back then, but do now.
I think it’s weird and inorganic to measure relationships by how frequently you talk or see one another. Quality > quantity basicss––but quantity can help to measure consistency and sincerity, sure. (That is, if you want to attempt at relationships where you can’t even gauge sincerity/intention as acted in the best of faith.) Mostly, I also realized how much I suck at building several relationships at a time and don’t really desire the bloat of barely knowing hundreds of people. I can barely maintain 2-3 conversations at a time (over text), most days can’t at all––it’s literally terrible of me. I will send back snail mail correspondences (taking form in the internet age as the conversations where we send paragraphs every day or so), always have the space to send “made me think of yous”, and come unrestrained, ecstatic news as seamless as the last time I saw them.
Another reading is that this made me realize how terrible I am at meeting-to-pursue-something-intentionally-lasting-til-the-end-of-our-lives if not occurring organically. Saw a TikTok about how people on dating apps are just ‘some dude’, or on distance of anything more than a mile, mostly people you would never have encountered otherwise. That would be a magical thing to have at our hands if we didn’t treat people as disposable. But from the very first encounter with these platforms, that seems to be part of the appeal: to have power in choice, selection, be granted attention from all directions with little regards to intent––and I found myself suddenly disgusted at participating in that kind of positioning of people. Revealing myself and the basics over me is another bad part; I forget what I’ve told people even if I love learning about them and become a mess at offering myself in return. I can’t know someone briefly. I have to know them entirely. I could fall in love with anyone if I get to the point of truly knowing them––but do we ever reach that part with people in our lifetime?
This is all me being very lame and beginning to realize my relationship with modern expectations surrounding intimacy. (Nice try writing this Chia, you still get no pussy, etc etc.) But I feel like so much of this underlying pressure to define my relationship to love has also been because of a deeprooted detachment to queer identity/experience. I don’t think human beings were meant to only love one person, but there’s little to no circumstances where I can see myself even exploring the possibility of N people without deception / with the full attention given that I want to provide to a human being at the very baseline level of interacting with them. The capacity to know is limited, but the desire to love is boundless––is that possible?
Maybe that’s also why I’m very hesitant to open myself up to any potential interactions in the first place. My inbox, my taking forever to reply, creating this cursed loop where it’s now weird and disingenuous to get back (again, I need to work on this)––I think you deserve my full thought / intent, I’m not capable of doing that on a whim for people who graciously reach out/interact with my work. Everything said to me I take in, over and over and over.
But the world isn’t designed for this kind of depth, I think. It’s about making as many connections as possible and getting what you need out of people, which has really fucked up my relationship with myself and people. (Here I reveal the guilt I have when asking my friends for anything in their area of expertise, even if everything we discuss is outside that area.) At the same time, there’s immense pressure towards immediacy without intimacy. Why someone revealing their deepest desires or traumas quickly, in a forced manner without the buildup, is a poor binding / manipulative tactic at worst. There’s no optimizing relationships, there’s no real way to expedite trust. Distance is such a critical part of how I come to know: I want to know how you are far away from me, how we grow when physically apart, and what we become together––this is the best measure I have right now of the love between people, what we make of each other and how we know each other and desire to become something more for when we return even if we’re not actively there.
The internet has given me an unhealthy relationship with this part of knowing/revealing: being able to genuinely present the mashup of thoughts and interests and beliefs I hold has been a gift and how I have ‘lived’ and evolved my own identity and understanding of the world for as long as I can remember, but it also removes a dozen stages of back-and-forth that need to happen in some form. It feels weird reading cues & nuances when surrounded in an institution where people treat people disposably more frequently than not––life has been a lot better since I stopped forcing these interactions and started leaning in on people with a modicum of effort. (There’s also probably trauma somewhere here: where I haven’t felt heard, or have felt deceived for most of my life so have little ability to get if someone actually wants to know know me or the surface level part.)
To hold infinite capacity for love doesn’t mean I have to hand it out negligently; I understand that I’ll forever have this strong desire for reciprocation, and that desire can only exist inside me safely if I know how cautious and intentional I have to be with it.
Time isn’t scarce at all. It feels like my attention has been thinned over a decade and I’m suddenly realizing how much of myself I can gift when I can be fully embodied. When focused, it feels like I can truly give to the world.
Every false thing I’ve heard about the human universal for affection or the need for space is rewound. I provide the better world when I can properly integrate distance between me. I know language between people is only understood if developed over time. I feel immensely vulnerable still whenever I admit that some great life experience, some substance, some event––I did first, or a dozen times over, alone… but why should I ever think of it in a bad way? I can now be the one to hold my friends through this. I learn to comfort people and walk them through experiences as kindly as I did to myself.
It feels like I’m rebuilding a relationship with myself, accepting the state of who I’ve always been and who I likely always will be. I would like to get married and spend many mornings enjoying the quiet presence of someone; have space of my own so that I may always bring back new parts of myself that I’ve discovered. I want to be touched in ways that carry meaning, receive affection that sees me and responds to me. I understand now the weight of love, its impression and the true magic when you don’t even need to say it.
Lately I’ve been reading about those deaths that have gone unnoticed for years. It’s deeply tragic. The body is unrecognizable and becomes a scary news story
I’ve decided that my loved ones do not need to be at the deathbed, they just need to know that I was dying. That’s the common link between some of these stories, I think. They knew someone was troubled but had no idea what was going on; love in form is breaking through that and understanding. People still die understudied despite being under the constant presence of others. Distance holds new meaning. Presence does not only mean proximity.
Maybe one day I’ll even like the sound of my own voice.