The Modern Problem of Differentiation


I like my solitude. Loneliness is an illusion. I spend whole days alone and I’m perfectly happy with it. In fact, it’s the most peaceful thing in the world. The problem is other people. (Is it? Is it really?)

Jean Paul Sartre had it right. (Did he?) Hell is other people. Well… not everyone, just some. Those people that need other people. Those people that get their knickers in a wad when you set a boundary for yourself. But as I’ve written this piece, I think maybe I’m not seeing the whole picture. I think there is more to this than I’m aware of.

One of my best friends disappeared for three years without telling a soul. I think about that. I wonder how his family felt. I wonder how he felt, down in his core. I wonder what it means to be a human being… a social creature… with social ties and obligations. It’s just so much easier to push away from the world. To be alone. But that hurts too. Because I’m not free of empathy. I know when I’ve hurt someone else. And the last thing I want to do is hurt others. But how much say do I really have with that? Will people go on hurting regardless of my actions or inactions?

Am I capable of being a part of a community? Or do my wounds keep me from really integrating? Do they hold me back? Do they cause me to resent the people I love?


Self care comes first. That’s not selfish. (Then again there is a difference between self care and selfishness. A fine line). Is self-care about prioritizing myself over other people? Yes, but one must do so in a way that toes the line, a way that gives space to meaning and feedback and two-way communication. I am allowed to spend time on self-care; to live in solitude. Especially! Especially when I spent my entire life denying myself in order to survive, keeping my boundaries down for the sake of others.

Sure I’m in pain, but it’s fine. No. No. It’s fine. I’m not crying. I’m not hurting inside. Let me just continue minimizing my needs for you and everyone else. (So much pain in these words. So much anger.)

The world doesn’t see me (So much fear). I knew someone once who saw me. Who loved me completely (So much nostalgia. So much pain). I miss that feeling… getting to be myself completely with another person… getting to let down my most sacred wall… getting to be vulnerable with someone I loved.

How do I pull my walls down? How do I tear them down completely and splay myself out for the world?

Listen: I don’t want anyone in my life who isn’t going to be honest and open with me. Anyone who runs off without a word; who holds my actions against me without offering any amount of vulnerability. I don’t want that in my life anymore. Because somehow in the midst of everything I started to change. I started to revert. To deny myself again. Even the person I loved most… the person that once accepted me fully… had taken to rejection like flies on a honeysuckle.

I abandon myself for this world and it only creates pain for me. Maybe once it helped me survive; helped me get by; avoid violence from my peers, from my family. But now it just holds me back.

Now I am so afraid of being myself for this world; when that’s what the world needs most from me… to stand in my power, to exude it, to live my bliss and my mission. There is no doubt about what it is.

I am here to write, to encourage others to create. I am here to build things that will last long after I’m gone; ideas, organizations. The whole kit and kaboodle.

BUT FIRST. I’ve got to find me. I’ve got to do things for me. Cause I’ve never done that before. I’ve never put my happiness before yours. So I’ve got these archetypes in me. The ‘Me’ and the ‘You.’ Always battling. Any time I do for myself, I fear that I’ll let others down. They call me selfish. They tell me I don’t care about them, or their wants and needs. But that isn’t so. I’ve just never learned the balance.

The modern problem of differentiation still baffles me, still haunts me, keeps me from finding the in between, the happy space, the perfect mixture of solitude and togetherness.

So here I am in this place. With an opportunity for real enduring solitude. And I’ve got to make a choice. Do I wait? Do I leave the mountain for the market? Or do I stay here? At this summit, cultivating my peace and my quiet? Dreaming and intending. Building for the future. I’m learning out here. I’m learning what holds me back. What propels me forward.

While the world outside weeps. And struggles. When it seems no one has considered the possibility that I have intentionally created this situation for myself. While you buy into the bullshit, the idea of a 9 to 5, a life that burdens you and burns you out. That’s not my path. That’s not what I want. Money is a fabrication and I am still stuck believing it’s an object; it’s a wall; a barrier to my true dreams. But it’s not. The barrier is thinking there’s not enough money.

When the reality is, it’s out there. The world is filled with resources. And people waiting to help you fly.

So I’m here cultivating my peace; my aloneness. And it’s brilliant. I want to share it with people really. I want people to know there are other ways to live. Beautiful ways. Peaceful ways.

I’m working on setting boundaries in a way that achieves balance and understanding with the people i care about. I’m not perfect and I’m still figuring it out. My greatest fear is that, in choosing solitude I am hurting the ones I care about. Am I? Am I hurting you?

Here’s the thing:

My solitude has never been more important to me. It’s a sweet little silk cocoon that I have weaved with the help of people who believe in me. And it sure is a blessing to have this place as a home base. The pillar around which my river flows. But I’ve yet to understand how to navigate the two poles of my life: Me and You.

I’m still learning how to love myself and what that means. Mark said he doesn’t do things because he loves himself. He just loves himself and lives his life from there. That’s it. There’s no secret for him.

But I’m not there yet. I don’t love my body. I don’t love how the world sees me (or rather how they don’t see me). And I wonder if that’s my fault–that people don’t see me because I don’t show my true self… because I’m afraid for whatever reason. So I go on hurting. I go on finding that the only time I feel safe is when I’m alone.

I learned a long time ago that I needed to deny my needs for others; to hide them from my family and society. Couldn’t be a girl when that’s all I wanted. Couldn’t be a writer when that’s all I wanted. And the pain of that still haunts me. The abandonment still eats at me.

And the answer to the modern problem of differentiation remains a big fucking mystery. The only mystery worth solving.

Except maybe it’s not so much a mystery as an obvious truth: that I’ve got to be myself. That I’ve got to solve this mess inside myself. Write. Cry. Heal. Take walks. Cook. Laugh. Be honest and open. Do my hair up nice once in a while. Show myself to the world. Put myself fully and completely into everything I do. In every moment.

Unapologetic. Liberated. Me.

And in the process maybe I’ll learn the difference between being/finding myself and being selfish. Because there is a difference. And in figuring it out, perhaps I’ll learn important things about boundaries… about my boundaries… and your boundaries. In the process, maybe I’ll learn how to navigate these strange waters. And if I’m open enough, maybe I’ll learn a thing or two from other people.

Sure, Sartre. Maybe Hell is other people. But maybe Heaven is too. Maybe it’s just a matter of perspective. And if I can’t solve the modern problem of differentiation, how can I ever hope to find the truth?





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