Not in this moment, per se, but in this general age of my life. And while it feels like a dramatic statement on the page, further examination doesn’t really bear that sentiment out. Even leaving entirely aside my equalizing supposition that most people feel lonely in the overgrown shells that make their lives, of course I’m lonely. We are talking about an exile of self-choosing after all. I mean, that’s pretty much baked in to this cake of itinerancy and enforced distance that I’ve been laboring over all these past years. I’ve proofed many cultures of friends and family around the globe, but no matter how many times we proffer the recitation that the world is so small these days, it’s a pretty fucking expansive planet, especially when you consider that on most occasions the precious few centimeters that form the dichotomy between in my brain and the world at large mark more than ample territory to prove unbridgeable to my futile protestations.
I think at this point it is also important to note that my idea of loneliness does not carry an inherently negative connotation. I’ll concede to melancholic, perhaps, but my own application of loneliness is meant to convey a wide range of private emotions and outwardly-manifested constructs. I am often alone, sometimes lamentably though generally to great feelings of connection to my surroundings. So too, am I frequently in the company of others; on occasion with great jubilation but I would be remiss not to note that never is the potential greater for me to experience profound feelings of isolation than when amongst other people. The hyper-awareness of this last fact may color my comportment more often than I’m willing to admit (on this page or otherwise even to myself).
Still, I am reticent to cow completely to my social anxieties, sinking too comfortably (and at what point irreversibly?) into my solitude. Sometimes I make efforts in good faith to stem this moat of silence (no doubt stealing the phrase, but from where, I wonder?) that surrounds me. At other times, the efforts are in considerably less good faith, aimed more at tossing tasty morsels of flesh to the underlying crocodiles, subsequently feeling complacently self-satisfied at my efforts from within the unbreached walls of my quiet bastion.
And for these efforts: there is Tinder. I speak from my personal perspective only, though I say with great conviction that it is a platform of almost entirely empty calories. Ostensibly I use it to find ever-local individuals as I transit this globe, seeking conversations, connections, and–in spite of the more cynical voices in my brain–even romantic intrigue. Tangibly, however, what it typically entails is the mindless swiping of colorful photos and then going to sleep plied with the false belief that I’ve engaged in actual social interaction, ignoring that I’ve never left the dark confines of my bunk. Some of this is good! Even video game socializing can be enough to spur one’s energies and imaginations, helping to feel connected to the world around. Some of this is bad! Video games are not in point of fact an adequate substitution for meeting real people, although they may very well preclude it.
All of this is but a preamble. I met Q on Tinder. Unexpectedly, a fun conversation ensued. A frisson of connection that preceded meeting in person. In fact, we’d more or less decided to travel together for a spell before even that first face-to-face.
It has been a bit of time since I’ve shared the rhythms of life in a small space (never a sailboat) with another human. I can’t say that I’m getting better at it as time marches forth. More aware of my foibles, perhaps, though I hope you don’t find it too much of a cop out when I say that self-awareness is not the same as capacity to change. Not in the scope of time we’re talking about, anyway. All in all, I think we’ve done very well the past few weeks. We are learning each other, each other’s rhythms. We don’t always succeed in our first pass at communication, but I judge each of us to be diligent in our sustained efforts. Should I find it comforting that (speaking only for myself) some habits never change? Hmm, I do not. However, as equally dispiriting as I might find my own social “limitations” (better described as the gap between how I am and how I would like myself to be), I also appreciate the impetus to focus on continued growth even as I get ever-longer in the tooth.
I type these words at anchorage off the town of Asuncion. In recent times we’ve weathered glorious overnight sails, frustrating periods of cold calm, a wild storm (thankfully a predicted one, and one rode out in relative safety at anchor in Bahia Tortuga) and pernicious electrical issues on the boat which culminated (though by no means terminated) with all lights and instruments going black at 3am off the southern tip of Cedros Island. Although I have at times worn my stress more brazenly than I have rightfully been given cause to (what else is new, eh?) I will unabashedly say that parts of these recent voyages have been near transcendent for me. With the successful installation of an autopilot, I am no longer tethered to the helm and the boat has become my playground; I am free to play with the sail trim, to wander the decks peering across the horizon, and lose myself in the starry sky for long stretches. And although there is nearly infinitely more that my brain might tell me that I need in this life, if I only had just those things, it might well be enough.