Friday, June 12, 2015

"Happiness only real when shared" reads the closing line of Christopher McCandless' adventure journal, written moments before death in the Alaskan wilderness. His story is famously captured in Jon Krakauer's "Into the Wild", and one of the many questions readers may have, is why is that phrase so important? Is any sort of happiness incurred alone thereby fake? The book, it appears, suggests this very notion. Krakuer does a wonderful job interpreting McCandless's journal, communicating to the reader how important it is to share memories with others. When McCandless wrote his final few words, he was starving, exhausted, and most likely quite lonely. His life alone amongst the wild at that point seems like a waste. It failed to be what he imagined, and the happiness he found there became futile because he had no one to share it with. But are memories always better when experienced with other people? Is happiness only real when shared?

Absolutely not.

A few entries ago, in my post titled "My Australian Girlfriend", I outline my solo venture to Adelaide's Outer Harbour, and how truly splendid everything about that journey was. (by now, hopefully, it has been established that I don't actually have a girlfriend.) But perhaps most peculiar of all is how I managed to have such a grand time completely alone. If I had to be classified, I would fall closer to the introvert side of the spectrum, but it's always more complex than that. Individuality is not about the black and white facts of nature so much as it is about the gray area in between. Different situations evoke different aspects of our personalities, so to appoint it with a single moniker never does any justice. Regardless, I find confidence in knowing that I can have a good time all by myself. I've found that the people I've met that can do this as well are the ones I gravitate towards most.

A couple weeks ago, on a whim, I decided to go to Perth by myself. One night, I walked north of my accommodation just to see where it would take me. I encountered numerous sights that took me off the beaten path, but Hyde Park in particular proved most memorable. It was about 11 pm by the time I got there. Despite being only a couple kilometers away from the city centre, not a person could be found. Hyde Park contains two small ponds, divided by a land bridge in the center, encompassed by a larger walking path. Normally I would walk around at a moderate pace, but in Hyde Park, the sights from the path prove too intriguing to do so. Ducks meander their way throughout the ponds and into the shadowy islands within. Black Swans contently stretch out along the shores. A kitten streaks by, disappearing into the night seconds later. Statues, sculptures, gazebos, and informational recordings give the park life even when no one else wants to. Perhaps strangest of all, are the random exercise equipment scattered about the path, bolted into the ground. Here, the city of Perth provides safe instruction as to how to use the equipment, as well as healthy eating habits. I actually laughed out loud a few times. I didn't walk around the ponds so much as I danced, thanks to my ipod-delivered music. I sat amongst the birds and watched the stars with a smile on my face. Somewhere in Perth, perhaps minutes away, a party must have been going on. Faces upon faces of people appearing and disappearing, striving for relevancy, for meaning. But in the midst of all that, another ongoing party was happening right there in Hyde Park — a party within my head. And no one else was invited.

When spending time alone, there are always going to be moments of sad realisation relating to how no one else can share the same memories. I can never ask anyone, "hey do you remember that one time in Perth…" except myself. But the idea of happiness only being real when shared puzzles me. Some of my happiest moments in life occur when I am completely alone. Likewise, many more of these moments happen alongside other people. But can anyone on earth share my exact same memories? Are any of them quite like me? Of course not. And that's precisely why, in addition to those close to me, there is a tremendous amount of love that I have for myself. That's why, when I wake up each morning and look into the mirror, it's not just my own reflection that I see. I see my best friend.

To fully accept and be at peace with oneself is of the most essential aspects of living, though unfortunately for some this requires more effort than others to achieve. No matter how valuable the connections you have with other people may be, none are as important as the relationship you have with yourself. Not a single person in the entire universe will ever be as close to you as you are with your own being. If at first you don't love yourself, it becomes immensely difficult to love anyone at all.

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