One of my favorite quotes to stew over is, “If you’re lonely when you’re alone, you’re in bad company.” I consider this excessively. I find myself alone a lot now. In Boulder, I made every effort to never find myself alone. My constant search for company left many of my friends feeling exhausted. I could hang out with the same person every day and never get tired of them. Sure, after a few days we’d start to fight, we’d get on each others’ nerves, and we’d revert to some sort of juvenile version of ourselves. I liked this, though. It was more tolerable than sitting at home by myself. I could go out five nights in a row and still be down to go out the night after that. When friends gave up on a night of fun for responsibility, I pushed forward. I was determined to never miss a social opportunity. I made myself a regular at a bar. When nobody wanted to go out, I’d just go out alone, positive that I’d find somebody willing to escape solitude with. I always did. I made it my business to know everybody. I also spent a lot of time drunk.
Bogota is different. Having come down here with no base level of Spanish, I don’t speak the language. I mean, I speak enough to get by, but not enough to relate to strangers in a meaningful way. I don’t go out alone here. It takes an incredible amount of effort to leave my house to spend time in any social environment; an hour and a half to get anywhere in this city and if you want to stay there past 10:30, you need to pay for a cab. It’s not easy on a volunteer’s salary. Then, once you get somewhere, you run into this interesting cultural phenomenon that’s come from the fact that most Colombians around my age still live with their parents if they’re not married. Not only does this stunt most after-party aspirations, but it’s created this intense Colombian social network situation. Since nobody moves, they spend their whole lives being friends with the same group of people they’ve known since grade school. This is a really difficult network for a foreign stranger to break into. Most of the new friends I’ve made have come through my roommates’ friends and their friends. Most of these people, however, have too many educational and work-related responsibilities to spend any substantial amount of time together. It’s common for most Colombians to work six-day work weeks. I have no idea how they put up with this. Beyond this, if you happen to fuck up your chance at an in with a group because of romantic endeavors, well, it’s just best not to. Colombia’s self-proclaimed pastime is gossip and, let me tell you, this gossip is dangerous. It distorts relationships and colors opinions and is to be avoided at all costs. So, I spend a lot of time alone.
I often find myself going stir crazy. In my first few months, after the glow of the city dulled and I’d explored the parts that I could to exhaust, I spent a lot of time obsessing about what my friends were doing back home. I wrote a lot of long letters and made sure to contact many of them regularly. I was afraid they would forget about me by the end of the year, began wondering if I should be so far away. Eventually, this drive quieted and I accepted my solitude. I spent a lot of time surfing the web, analyzing the structure of the lives of my favorite authors, getting involved in their works. I made political aspirations and tried to catch up on information that I’d been willfully ignorant towards while I’d spent time building a social network back home. I got tired of this. I want to care, but I’m too here, in myself. I’m not experiencing war abroad and I’m not experiencing starvation and I’m not experiencing racial displacement. I can’t write on things I don’t know about. I had to accept the experience that I was having in the now.
I set out a long time ago to be a writer, with little understanding of what this meant. I liked reading fantasy novels and escaping my dull reality. Slowly, over time, my tastes developed and I fell in love with influential writing and experimental thinking. My life became an art project. I made an effort to devour experience. A lot of this made me miserable, but I’d found a comfort in misery. It gave me ammo. I began to change myself through my writing, then built a desire to change others through my writing, change the world. This is an ambitious and self-admittedly naive aspiration. I set out on a journey to experience the world, so that I might have something to say about it. I wanted to inform myself so I could inform others. What I discovered along the way is that I get bored easily, I have a habit of acting out extreme and specific cycles in my life, and I am very prone to loneliness.
So we return to this. “If you’re lonely when you’re alone, you’re in bad company.” What does this mean, exactly? Does it mean that I am bad company? The people I tend to surround myself with don’t seem to think so. Usually I get “fun” or “interesting” or “genuine”. I consider myself a good listener and a good person to analyze with. I like to dig into subjects with people. I love hearing about people’s personal lives and immersing myself in the issues they care about. I love having fun with other people and being ridiculous. I love making memories to share.
I don’t hate being alone because I’m bad company. I hate being alone because I like learning from people. I like developing complicated relationships and experiencing the human condition as it is when we relate to each other. Humans are social creatures. This is not a weakness, it’s what has always kept us alive as a species, it is instinctual. I hate being alone because conversations with yourself always become cyclical and pointless. I need somebody around to bounce ideas off of, to build with. I hate being alone because people are interesting and I like to figure out how they work; how their minds work, how they’re built, where they’re coming from. I hate being alone because you can’t accomplish big things alone. A revolution of one will never be successful. I’m slowly coming to grips with this unsettling feeling that’s been developing for the past month. My wanderlust didn’t want me to camp out abroad for a year, it wanted me to keep moving, stay interested, get lost, make friends, go back to my friends, leave them again, experience. I’m restless.
So I’ve developed a game plan for the rest of my year. I will fulfill my responsibilities here, but I will also spend this time preparing myself for what I’m really meant to be doing. I’m meant to be traveling and I’m meant to be returning and I’m meant to be writing and I’m meant to be boosting my friends in their creative ambitions. I will build this space, La Mondain Barista, into a community. I will submit my work to several magazines. I will give my words a larger audience. I will figure out a way to build resources so that I can keep traveling (after I visit home). I will create meaningful relationships in any way possible because I’m meant to be surrounded by people that I love and sharing the world with them. I will make a greater effort to learn Spanish so that I can do this. I will let myself fall in love again. I guess I needed some time alone to figure this out.
– Jaime Dyna La Mondain