I need solitude like I need air. That is to say, solitude is necessary for me to be me and to center myself.
However, just as breathing is necessary but not enough for a full and productive life, solitude is a basic need, one that I have to create regularly for myself, but in itself, it is not enough for me to live dynamically, to live well. For that to happen, I need community and a strong network of friends who care about me, who inspire me, who challenge me to achieve my goals and question my easy assumptions, and who can make me smile, laugh, and act silly. In fact, the irony of NYC was that, despite being surrounded by 8 million people and unable to find or create the solitude that I needed, I never really established a community of my own friends who could provide this other, vital element to my life. I do not mean to diminish the kindnesses and friendships that were offered and accepted while I was in NYC, nor to I mean to diminish how important and supportive and kind and helpful Joya was (and continues to be). Because I was unhappy and unable to find solitude, my ability to really connect and form deep friendships was considerably hampered. Yes, there were other, external, factors that made forming new communities difficult. At the time, I may have seen those factors as the root cause for my inability to create community. Those external realities were real, and certainly contributed to the difficulties in creating community, but they were difficulties that could have been overcome if I’d had more strength and fortitude/solitude. Truth be told, my desire to leave NYC made it very hard to want to make friends when I knew that, once again, I’d have to say goodbye to a group of people that I’d grown to care for and depend on.
For all intents and purposes, I’ve been alone since leaving Natalie’s place in Maryland on August 3rd. I have not been particularly lonely. In fact, I could probably go another month or two living with minimal contact with others and be just fine in many respects. I can’t remember the last time I’ve had this much time completely to myself and for that alone, this trip was completely worthwhile. With this alone time, I have been able to reflect more clearly on how I want to live and how best to focus my energies.
From a stark and mercenary point of view, I realized that starting over, trying to build a network of friends and colleagues from scratch requires a massive amount of energy, dedication and time. If, as I’ve mentioned before, I am going to make life decisions based on what’s best for me as a writer and theatre artist, then I seriously have to question the decision to move to a place where I know nobody, where I have no network or support group, where I have no friends, where there is so little theatre that the odds of finding someone to inspire me and to challenge me and to, perhaps, collaborate with me are extremely low. Put into this, admittedly non-emotional perspective, I had to ask myself: what do I need to succeed as an artist and is Las Cruces really capable of providing for those needs.
The romanticized version of moving to the desert to be a writer presented a reality that said, “yes, all you need to vast empty spaces, deep night skies, and lots of solitude.”
The actual experience and reflection of moving here has replied with, “no, because as much as you enjoy the silence, or might groove on the stars and the vistas and mountains and the landscape, these are not the things that inspire you. People inspire you, artistic accomplishment of others inspires you, questions of how and why people do what they do are the questions that concern you as an artist. Sunsets are pretty and the White Sands National Monument is beautiful, but these do not inspire you to make things, or to tell stories.”
Finding the proper balance between solitude and community will be, I suspect, a continual challenge for me. As with most challenges, it deserves to be engaged with and not run away from. In a less analytical vein, I’m simply looking forward to having a group of really cool people that I can hang out with, who will make me laugh, who will inspire me, and who will welcome me.