the Webb blog

The Power of Solitude & Self-Reflection

5 minute read

I was never a popular kid.

I usually had a friend or two but being the perpetual "new kid" meant I spent my initial time alone. Being smart was decidedly not cool at the time so uh, my situation did not change much thereafter (when kids got used to me). Without the readily available distraction of technology like we have today, my only resource to pass the time was thinking about whatever floated through my mind; when books, drawing, and other activities were momentarily undesirable.

The litany of topics my 5th grade mind thought about:

  • which Ehrgeiz character would I choose to defeat my (at the time only) friend David?
  • does Koralys really like me?
  • what is funny about my (then) Tennessee accent?
  • why do my parents want me to be like my sister?
  • how is wearing a watch on my right wrist "gay"?
  • why is gay a derogatory word, doesn't it mean happy? Huckleberry Finn is happy. 🤔

...and so on (for context, this was the late 90s/early 2000s).

As you can imagine, when you are physically comfortable and no one is around to break up your thoughts, it is easy to let the mind run unchecked (I unintentionally learned meditation?). The more I did these mental (health?) exercises, the more comfortable and accepting I became of myself.

As I write this, I do not have years of crippling self-doubt and whatnot that plagues a seemingly significant amount of people today. Naturally, it seems, self-acceptance is easier when the process starts (in my case, decades) earlier.

Currently, the world is embroiled in a pandemic unlike any we have seen in over a hundred years and to say it has not been easy to deal with would be (fittingly) the understatement of the century. Simultaneously, the United States seems to be giving a damn about us Black people for once, and in a real way. I have plenty of conflicting feelings about this. Is it virtue signaling or actual intent to dismantle institutional racism? I will save that topic for another day/post.

Usually relegated to subplots of films, we are seeing (firsthand!) the destruction of economies and communities valued in the most expensive currency — life. And that is just from the virus! While that has been (and continues to be) reported on, I want to instead focus on one of the many byproducts of our current situation. Rather than preach I am going to share a breakthrough I experienced.

I would also like to point out that I view everything about myself here with no anger or resentment; merely bemusement, at most. While I can recall the intense feelings of years past, I am at peace.

The Breakthrough

I place immense importance on my close male relationships for acceptance and possibly even protection. I feel betrayed and personally attacked when I do not feel that importance reciprocated.

Protection from what, I do not yet know...have not figured that out yet.

What I have figured out is that my emphasis on brotherhood stems from a number of things:

  • having two sisters, no brothers
  • never feeling comfortable talking to my parents
    • they constantly compared me to my sister, one year younger than me
      • "why don't you have as many friends as her"
      • "why aren't you as popular as her, you're the oldest"
    • my dad tried to raise me to be exactly like him rather than help improve my strengths and shore up my weaknesses
      • to be fair he didn't know his own dad so he was literally doing the best he could with no Internet for reference
  • popular media
  • Potnas, from Will Smith's Willennium album (I'm a HUGE fan)

There are three notable times in my life where I felt untold levels of betrayal.

[REDACTED]

In the draft version of this post I went into detail about these times and then stopped working on it for two whole months. I definitely went too deep and decided there's no way to not make myself or (most importantly) other people not seem like the absolute worst because there are three sides to every story: your side, the other side, and the truth.

Instead, I think a simple list with what I learned will do:

  • high-school
    • death and coming out are stressful life events
  • young adult (early 20s)
    • friendship and love, hoo boy
    • "bros before hoes" is stupid, bros are often terrible
  • young adult (mid 20s)
    • coworkers are not always friends, just convenience via proximity
    • jealously is a bitch and a half...

Social Isolation

When I initially penned this post I was in a peculiar predicament. I moved ahead of my family to California to start a new job and the following week there was a work from home mandate. Luckily, my employer's client was not hurting for money and I had nice corporate temporary housing. I felt quite fortunate to not be in a financial bind. I am now back home because it does not look like anyone is getting back in the office before 2020 is out.

What I do share with most of the world is the unsettling experience of social isolation. I (think I) understand why prisoners getting put in "the hole" or solitary confinement is dreaded punishment. Humans are social creatures, even anti-social people are a little social.

To help combat the despair, my employer has instituted (optional) weekly video chats. A Slack group I help moderate has a recurring Friday chat on Zoom so we can catch up and vent to each other (and to China/Russia, probably). When I was in Cali I FaceTime'd my family almost daily. I play Animal Crossing and/or Fortnite with my friends on a regular basis.

With sleep factored into the video chat section of my daily routine I was looking at around 10-12 hours of my mind occupied. That left me with 12-14 hours to myself.

Alone.

With my thoughts.

...

As prefaced, I am no stranger to this but I suspect a lot of people are and I fear the results can be catastrophic. Please note that I am NOT a licensed practitioner of mental health, I'm just a Black guy on the Internet who has been through some shit and is merely sharing stuff on his personal blog.

Self-Acceptance Tips

  • don't beat yourself up, life does a WAY better job at that than you
  • try to reflect upon situations without emotion
  • remember that only you can become the best you that you could ever be

What will make all this easier is time. Time lessens sharp cuts to the psyche and the heart. Sure, you may feel a dull ache but at least it's not searing...right? High-five! 🕸