The cure to loneliness is learning how to be content with one's own company. At least, that's what I've learned after nearly two years of living on my own.
I am currently hours away from my closest friends and family. When I moved to Fayetteville, Arkansas in October 2014, I honestly didn't have any intention of staying there for an extended period of time. I longed to be in Denver, Colorado with my boyfriend. I was ready for us to start our lives together.
I didn't go out of my way to make friends because I honestly didn't feel like I needed to. In my mind, I had already begun to plan my escape out of Arkansas. I had found companionship with my co-workers and with the people I played volleyball with.
That was enough for me. I was satisfied.
It's funny how, as humans, we try to plan our lives in advance. We act as if we know exactly how our lives will pan out. Trust me, we don't. The day after my 25th birthday, I removed myself from the long-distance relationship that had already been deteriorating for years. It was long overdue.
But unfortunately, that fact didn't make the heartbreak any easier. You see, that relationship was the first legitimate one I'd ever had. He was my first love and my first real heartbreak. So, since I had gone 25 years without experiencing any kind of heartbreak, I was sort of a mess.
In those dark moments, I sought comfort in professional help. But to be honest, I only saw the woman once. She was a great listener, and she suggested a really captivating book for me read. (That reminds me: I should probably finish it now.)
Then, I met a fantastic guy. He challenged my thinking on every level. He was incredibly thoughtful, and he was easy on the eyes. He was well-cultured. He loved to travel. He enjoyed talking about politics, and he even loved to work out. He was literally everything I dreamed about.
Best of all, he made me feel worthy of being in a relationship with. But, it was bad timing. I was still dealing with too much drama with my ex, and I was honestly beyond exhausted. I couldn't be the person I needed to be for him at the time.
So, we parted ways. That in and of itself was heartbreaking because I had finally found comfort in a companion in Arkansas. This is something I didn't realize I had even sought.
For the first time, I finally saw what Arkansas had to offer me. I found solace in hiking the worn-out trails of the Ozark Mountains and feeling the warmth of the sun shine down on my face. It was like a fully charged battery.
The sun propelled me forward. It gave me energy and life as I walked miles away into the wilderness. There is truly nothing more therapeutic than walking along the trails of freshly fallen amber leaves, inhaling and exhaling the clean, cool air and clearing the demons that inhabit your mind.
F. Scott Fitzgerald once wrote this:
Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall.
It's true. It felt like my life had started all over again.
Throughout the last eight months, it has been nature that's kept me sane. My weekends have often led me to the most beautifully secluded destinations that have hardly been touched by civilization. I've climbed over 2,000 feet to reach a 200-foot waterfall. I've walked along a 350-foot bluff in order to experience stunning views of the Buffalo River. I've practiced yoga on overlooks that have been surrounded by the greenest trees.
I've learned how to be wildly and incandescently happy in my own company because I'm in sync with nature. I've learned that with every step I take amongst the pines, I can also let go of any detrimental thoughts that linger within me. The negativity that once crippled me now streams steadily away, just like the water that flows freely down the Buffalo River.
That is what nature does. It allows you to move freely without the constraints of the real world that are constantly tugging at you from behind. If you respect it, it will respect you back. In fact, it will give you 10 times more than you ever expected.
I hike alone because it gives me a safe haven I can escape from. I can be in complete control of my actions, and I don't have to worry about anything other than myself. Call me selfish, but after these last three years of emotional torment, I deserve it. My life isn't always full of dandelions and butterflies. But for now, I'll take refuge among them.
This post was previously published on the author's personal blog.