Monday, July 16, 2012

Loneliness vs Solitude

I have thought about writing about this common challenge for migrants for a long time. I have held back on it because it does not really affect me. But then, recent "reminders" made me decide to pen down my thoughts.


On Friday 6th July after school, I chatted with my classmate KS while she was waiting for her bus. In preparation for a busy 2nd semester, KS had sent her 2 children back to India to be care for by their grandparents. Now that our previous surgery clinical is completed, we have a few weeks break from clinical (i.e. we only have classes to attend in school) before the practicum starts (i.e. next round of clinical). Thus, our workload is much lighter currently and we have more "free" days. KS remarked that without her children around and with her husband working (8 hour shifts plus 2-3 hours travelling back-and-forth), she is not used to being alone and often felt lonely outside of school. She had been advised to do the same activities, that she used to do with others, on her own. Nevertheless, she still finds it a big adjustment and is not comfortable with going solo.

Last Friday 13th July after school, I chatted with another classmate D (from the other subgroup) while we walked to the bus-stop and she waited for her bus. D shared that she just got married a few months before she left The Philippines to attend the GNIE course. Her husband is still in The Philippines and she missed him badly. D faced some challenges in convincing her husband to relocate to Canada with her, and thus D had to cope on her own here. Coincidentally, D had originally arranged with KS to visit the CRNBC library together after school that day. However, KS did not turn up for class today, so D was undecided what to do that afternoon. Once again D brought up the issue of loneliness.
While D was sharing about her marriage, she asked me how old I was. To which I replied my usual, "Guess?" D guessed that I am in my 20's and advised me to date and get married soon, not to wait until so late like her -- only to be married in her mid-30's. I didn't tell D my actual age, just laughed away. Then D asked me if I have a boyfriend and if so, I should talk to him about getting married soon. I jokingly replied, "Hmm, which one?" and laughed.
On Saturday 14th July, I hung out with a new friend HW from PRC. HW and her family migrated to Canada and resided in Calgary, Alberta some years ago. She has already obtained her Canadian citizenship. Thereafter, her husband decided to bring the whole family (i.e. HW, hubby and their son) back to China because of the better job prospects there. Almost a month ago, HW returned to Canada -- this time residing in Metro Vancouver -- as the vanguard for her family's eventual return to Canada. HW asked me if I ever feel lonely. I replied her honestly, "No." HW then shared that she felt bored all alone. I remembered what KS told me 2 Fridays ago and suggested to HW to do the same things on her own that she would otherwise do with others. HW then said that it wasn't fun doing stuff alone. I told her that I found it ok, I would do stuff -- grocery shopping, going to the movies, etc -- on my own.
HW asked if I have any boyfriend or am dating currently as she wanted to introduce someone to me. I told her honestly that I was not looking and I will leave it to fate, citing “有缘千里来相会。” [i.e. "If fate decrees, those fated will meet despite being 1000's of miles apart."] She then asked me wouldn't I like to have someone to be with me. I told her honestly that I am used to “我行我素”, i.e. doing what I like, whenever I like. 

Anyway, the 3 persons above are not the only migrants I have met who cited loneliness as an issue. Even male migrants have complained to me about loneliness. Thus, I think that loneliness is an important issue that potential migrants should consider in their S.W.O.T. analysis when planning for migration.

In my case, loneliness is not an issue.

This is partly because I make friends/acquaintances easily. E.g. I became friends with PN after chatting with her at the Singapore Police Cantonment Complex while we were both applying for our CNCC (Certificate of No Criminal Conviction). E.g. I became friends with HC after my email application to be her tenant fell through. E.g. I became friends with JX (ZS's wife) and GC after meeting them at a job interview. E.g. I became friends with JL after I met her grandmother by chance because of a disruption in the train service. E.g. I became friends with HW after a chance meeting on the bus.

Another reason is that I recognize and feel that socializing takes effort. E.g. I agree with this blog which cited sleepover as a "cognitively demanding" activity. In some cases, the effort is either necessary (due to social norms) or worth the rewards. In other cases, I sometimes catch myself -- in the midst of a social event -- wondering if I wouldn't be happier being alone.

A major reason is that I am born an introvert. [Note: You probably wouldn't know from my professional interactions because I have learned to adapt to an "extroverted" world.] Often living inside my head is more important than what happens with the world out there. E.g. I enjoy talking to my soft-toys. [Yes, I am still a kid at heart!] E.g. I can spend the whole day surfing the internet and reading blogs, and still not be bored because I enjoy reading, analyzing and reflecting on matters.

Finally, I enjoy observing the world. I could while away the hours just observing the numerous mundane stuff around me -- especially if I don't have to rush off for appointments. E.g. I am actually fascinated by the shadows dancing rhythmically on the escalator steps in the video below.

[Note: Sorry about the horizontal tilt, 
I don't know how to rotate a video.]

Combined together, the above factors turn (what others would consider) "the pain of loneliness" into "the joy of solitude" for me. This has been true for me since young. In short, loneliness is not a problem for me. Nevertheless, I recognize that it may be a challenge for other migrants.


  1. My neck is aching from the tilting.
    You are the only one who understands my comfort zone diagram. im impressed!!

    1. In case any of my readers would like to know about the comfort zone diagram, here's the url to asingaporeanson's blog entry on "Attitude towards migration".

  2. Hi asingaporeanson,

    Thanks for visiting and your comment. Thanks also for sharing your comfort zone diagram! I am impressed by your succinct illustration.

    Cheers, WD.

  3. It is the same for many people who retire. They are at a lost when they stop work. The daily routine of going to office and going home after work sets in after many years of working.

    That is why it is very important to plan for the time when you decide to slow down, work wise, eventually. Hobbies, interest and friends have to be built over the years. I will be practising all these next year.


  4. Hi FFT,

    > it is very important to plan for the time when you decide to slow down, work wise, eventually

    I agree. Thanks for visiting and your comment.

    Cheers, WD.

  5. I grew up alone for most of my youth.
    This was despite appearing a publicly extroverted type in school and Buddhist organisation (Soka).

    Eventually I decided I needed another half in life, and for almost 5 years hung on to a relationship that ended one-sided.
    By that time I might have made a decision: do I go it alone in life, since I was already a reputed, lonely weirdo?
    Or do I live with vulnerability and keep striving for that other half?
    I chose the latter.

    (When I say 'other half', it implies 'to work towards a greater whole', and not "I depend on a human crutch because I'm socially defective".)

    Only last decade could I only affirm myself as actually an introvert, including via MBTI (Myers-Briggs Type Indicator).

    Winking Doll, from your enjoying escalator shadow patterns, I get the impression that you tend to be more perceptive than judgmental by nature.

    My strong personal feelings about settling down:

    - if one does it 'because', due to social norms and 'age', then be resigned to a lifetime of social obligation, or the tedious consequences of relationship fallout;

    - but if one wants children in the family, then please don't gamble casino with female AND male biological clocks.

    To me, it's a stark truth, however unpleasant to younger ears strongly desiring personal freedom, that fertility for women AND men alike plunges after 35.

    So past mid-thirties, however much couples later love to have children, that they're even prepared for assisted conception, and failing that, to adopt, you're simply really old, to run after your children and see them really grow up.

    Therefore I won't encourage friends, "It's OK, so-and-so married late into the 40s, and now are happy new parents at 50…"
    It's unfair to the kids that Mummy and Daddy cannot be expected to be healthily around for them longer…

    Therefore, as with careers and interests, there must be honest mutual passion to make a relationship work.
    Otherwise don't fall victim to social pressures, and create personal tragedies.

    Each of us is entitled to a whole life of fulfilment and happiness, within a family, or by ourselves.

    1. Hi Alan,

      Thanks for visiting and sharing your thoughts.

      > I get the impression that you tend to be more perceptive than judgmental by nature.

      Ya, I am an ENFP according to Myers-Briggs, but my E score is borderline and N score is super high.

      Btw, I am already in my 40's. Although not menopausal yet, it is a bit late to think about having children.

      > if one does it 'because', due to social norms and 'age', then be resigned to a lifetime of social obligation, or the tedious consequences of relationship fallout;

      Good point. I am going to write about a friend's story soon. He was one of my past relationships -- one of the 2 men I've met whom I loved enough to be willing to have children with. It will also be part of my answer to asingaporeanson's question on "What happened (to me) at 28 years old?"

      Will update here when I'm done with the post.

      Cheers, WD.

    2. Here is my friend's story (as told from my perspective).

      Cheers, WD.

    3. Thank you for remembering to share the story, and for sharing the link again.

      I'd read it before and left a comment. :-)

    4. Hi Alan,

      Thanks for your reply.

      Sorry for the miscommunication. I provided the link above more for the "newer" visitors to this blog entry. Previously I thought that there was no need to provide a link given that you've already read and responded to the "A Love Story" series when it was first posted.

      Then yesterday, I realized from my blog stats that there are (presumably new) visitors to this page. Thus, the newer visitors may not be aware of the "A Love Story" series. That's why I decided to add a link to the series.

      Thanks again for your support and sharing your feedback.

      Cheers, WD.

  6. Hi WD,

    In case you didn't know, there is a Vancouver Singapore Club in Singapore. In fact, they are hosting a D&D on 10 August in Richmond. It's $42 per pax (or $35 for students). More details here:
    If you're keen to attend, just indicate your interest by replying to this post.

    1. Hi Anon,

      Thanks for your information. Yes, I have heard about the Singapore Club in Vancouver.

      My aim is to integrate into the Metro Vancouver society, so I am not specially looking for Singaporeans to hang out with. Of course, that is not to say that I will not make friends with my fellow Singapore citizens (or former Singapore PRs) here in Vancouver, just that a person's nationality is of no importance in my friendship decisions.

      For other Singaporeans who happen to read my blog, are in Vancouver and would like to hang out with fellow Singaporeans, please check out the Vancouver Singapore Club website.

      Cheers, WD.