There And Back Again…

“You must strive to find your own voice. Because the longer you wait to begin, the less likely you are to find it at all”. The screen was rolling Dead Poets Society, a brilliant classic imploring you to find your true self.

A year ago, I took these words at face value. I was in a state of deep depression for the past year. Confident that my life was at an end, I chose the path of an emotional blackout. I thought that life was getting away from me, and it had become too late to find myself. I stared for hours into nothingness, with no thoughts to latch onto. Insomnia and insentience became a routine part of life. People came and went, clearly content in their picture perfect lives. Life became downright loathsome and bleak, and I was standing on the precipice of a breakdown.

So on some gloomy day, while contemplating ways to cut off contact with the rest of the world, my eyes rested upon a dusty envelope. It was a letter from my father, lost amidst the chaos of preparation books and guides. It was given to me years ago, when he thought I was old enough to understand the workings of the world. While skimming through the letter, one sentence struck out: “No matter how worse may things get, your friends and family will always be there for you. Just remember that things will eventually get better.”

I wondered about that sentence for a long time. There are some moments in your life when you realize nothing will ever be same. This was one of those. It was at that moment that I decided to get up and change my outlook towards life. Hours of pondering over the exactitude of his words, it felt childish to curl up and hide in the cocoon of nothingness I had created. I figured that there is at least one person in the world who will always stick with me, no matter how much worse things get. That letter became my symbol of hope, assuring me that life will eventually get better.

And it did.

I decided to revisit an old habit of mine: reading. And they all came back. Characters who were once a part of my life embraced me again like long-lost friends. The Frodos, the Caulfields, the Potters, the Gatsbys. Everyone. I started to hear the voice of my true self, amidst the chaos of civilization. The mask of decadence that threatened to overshadow me, started to peel away, taking with itself the illusion of nothingness I had fabricated for myself. I had been carrying around my fear of loneliness in a locked package until then. As long as I was afraid to look inside the package, it maintained its terrifying hold over me: It depressed me, or would have done, if I had allowed myself to have even those feelings instead of their shadowy half versions. As I sat on park benches, delving into the souls of characters in books, I never felt alone. I felt more in company than I had ever been.

People fear solitude because to them, it is synonymous to loneliness. There is a world of difference between solitude and loneliness. From the outside it may appear the same, but appearances can be deceiving. Loneliness is marked by feelings of isolation and persists even when one is with other people, which is perhaps the most bitter form of loneliness. Solitude, on the other hand, is a state of being alone, content with your own company, discovering the vast world hidden inside our soul, so powerful that we barely acknowledge its existence.

Everyone carries in their heart a perfect landscape, sculpting out their visions of the ideal place. We hide it inside the carefully constructed masks of social grace and civility. The aspirational masks of who we would like to be rather than who we are — a self that invariably obscures our incompleteness and imperfection. It is this disguise that thwarts us from seeking solitude, and I guess I was lucky that I overthrew that shroud and embraced the peripatetic escape into solitude. I revelled both in the freedom of solitude and the safety from being understood, because those who understand us, enslave something in us.

And I can’t even begin to describe how this journey into solitude has turned out to be. I have begun to appreciate every little thing in my life that makes it worthwhile. From the little gestures from my friends who are always there for me, yet make a joke out of everything, to my parents who quietly watch from the side-lines as they watch me find my feet. From the divine bells of temples to the blaring music, the universe never ceases to amaze. Often in the labyrinthine fantasies of a perfect world, we forget how awesome real life can be.

If you, dear reader, ever get stuck in the pits of depression and feel wrecked and alone, just know that there is always something worth living for, and remember these words, courtesy of Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore: “Happiness can be found even in the darkest of times, If one only remembers to turn on the light”.