by Santiago Ayuso Arcas
“It’s ok not to be ok” or “it’s normal not to be normal” are two quite concurrent mottos we can all see or hear around us. I myself have seen several promo posters in both train stations, Temple Meads and Lime Street, in my last trip to Liverpool. Having said this, one may well wonder, is it normal to be a loner? Is it ok to seek loneliness from time to time? Or, if I’m a loner, must I always find refuge in loneliness? Well, here I will throw a couple of reflections based on my experience as a PhD student, which means a “part-time” mandatory loner.
Before you start suspecting of me, I will say that I agree with those two mottos. Firstly, because our individual specificities force us to be those who, without fully understanding though, understand ourselves the best. In other words, we, humans, are reflective, and one can only reflect with oneself, for which certain level of solitude is necessary. Secondly, we must acknowledge the times we’re living in, and the super connectivity we’re subjected to, so having some breaks from time to time helps to make better use, and value our different connections with others, at whichever level.
Now, before you start accusing me of promoting loneliness, which is meant to be the antagonist purpose of this blog, I will say that I endorse the idea of interdependency as an innate human property. We couldn’t have achieved what we have without human connections, interactions and relations in its multiple form throughout history. It was Aristotle who defined humans as “social animals”. That means, we certainly need each other.
But why do we need each other? You might rightfully ask. Well, apart from socially interdependent, I believe that we are also vulnerable animals by nature. Opposite to most mammals, for instance, a baby is incapable of thriving on its own. A “factory default” that we’ve transformed into an asset by coming together throughout years and years in order to reach further. And in order to do so, we’ve needed both the deepness of self-reflexiveness, and the complexity of social discussion. That means, I am clearly advocating for a balance.
In this balance, the whole is always more than the sum of its parts. Which, otherwise, is not an easy task. Throughout my years of Phd, I have understood the importance of that balance. Being alone it’s not just ok, but necessary. However, connecting with others is not just ok, but our natural condition, which makes it even more necessary. The importance of not dwelling forever on your own thoughts and activities is essential to fully enjoy life.
Reaching out to others and for others makes a huge difference. In fact, after so many years studying and researching I have come to realize that is when I share my own reflexions with friends, fellow students and researchers, and discuss with them that ideas can be fully understood and improved. Studying will naturally demand many hours of solitude from you. Becoming a graduate citizen will require everyone to seek for fair and healthy connections.