I went through a long period as a hermit, both out of necessity and for health reasons. The outside world became a terrifying spectre, one I feared may swallow me whole. I read books and wrote of my experiences whilst inside hospital wards and in my room. Worlds can be contained in a small space, and I lived a hundred lives and died a thousand deaths whilst awaiting my return to the outside world.
I dreamed of performing simple tasks and going to ordinary places. The thought of going to the bakery and asking for a seeded loaf, or opening my own bank account, terrified and enthralled me. The thought of ordering food in a café or requesting a movie ticket was unthinkable. I would go through the actions required to get public transport from Point A to B a million times. Going to the letterbox made me feel vulnerable, let alone going down the street. I missed conversations, and the strangers whom you bumped into as part of a day. I missed the aromas streaming out of restaurants and the music of street artists. I missed the harried workers rushing to the station and building a rapport with the people at my favourite places, until they had become friends.
I don’t regret my years of hermitage. I was unencumbered by other’s input. I wrote stories which weren’t savaged by critics and dressed in my best clothing, styling myself without popular opinion playing on my mind. I was ruler of my thoughts and if a bad pain day or stalker caused me want to scream or weep, I could, freely. I knew where I started and other people left off with regards to boundaries, as I was the only one there! Much was given, but there was also much taken away throughout those years.
I didn’t travel, nor dress to be seen. I couldn’t think of anything worse! I could be dressed in electric blue, though still invisible. One day, the doors were flung open, and there I was, out in the world. I was eighteen years of age. I took note of the prices at the local shops, writing them on a notepad and memorizing them. I had to learn everything, from how to ask for services to how to talk on the phone. Everything was new and thrilling, terrifying and stultifying.
Circumstances have seen me recede at times. I may have had surgery and am not strong enough to go out into the world, or circumstances have conspired to push me into a constrained space. When I am able to open the front door, I am greeted by sunshine and fresh air. I have had enough of living inside; of living within my imagination, and not out in the world. I am privileged to have been given the gift of knowing that I don’t need people to fulfil me, rather I delight in being with them. There is a marked difference.
To go to a movie or concert by yourself; to travel and dine singularly is still a lovely experience. To have been a hermit and not enjoyed your own company would be a nightmare! Fortunately, I can still laugh at my own jokes and bounce ideas off of myself. I look forward to seeing more of this world, what with its questionable leaders, crazy politics, beautiful folk, glorious art and delicious food. I have merely dipped my foot into the waters away from hermitage valley. I look forward to being fully submerged.