I bet this picture is really confusing you right now… Guess you should keep reading

I feel alone. How often do we use this to describe our emotions to other people, or even to ourselves? I feel alone all the time. But what does it mean to actually be alone, not just feel it?

Is there even a difference?

You say you feel alone when nobody understands you, or when you don’t fit in with anyone. But does that truly make you alone? There are still people there, even if they hide in the shadows of the corners instead of out in the light by your side. Feeling alone is a choice. You make that decision when you limit your sight to those standing directly beside you, when you forget to look in those corners.

Sure, the people in the corners are hiding. They could be doing a lot more to let you know that they’re there. But they are there. And its true that they could be giving you the support you need, or at least acknowledging the battle you’re facing. But if it came down to it, there would still be someone to come out from that corner to fight beside you.

You might not believe that, but that’s what it means to feel alone. You let that overpowering monster of an inner voice take over, and it tells you that you’re on your own. But, in reality, no matter who you are, feeling alone does not make you alone.

What it means to really be alone is something impossible to understand until you face it. You don’t realize just how different it is until you witness it. Of course, I would be lying if I claimed to know what it feels like. I haven’t even come close to that.

But, I have seen it. I’ve seen what it means to be completely alone.

I just spent this last weekend on a retreat (this isn’t going to turn into some plug about religion, fear not) with some other teens and college students from my area. For three days, we had no access to any technology. None.. I can actually hear some of you groaning and cringing at the thought… And despite what you might think, not even that is what it means to be alone.

For one of the days, we all went to a local homeless shelter. We talked to the people there, made food for them, and experienced just a tiny part of what their lives are.

Its these people who know what it is to be alone.

There was one man in particular, who calls himself ‘Polar Bear’, who made it clear to me. He told me about living in the mountains miles from where we were; with only Merlin the skunk, Bucky and Doey the deer, Pete the owl, and an occasional bear. He then told me about his family living in another state who he hasn’t seen in 25 years. He wanted to go visit them, and see their faces when they saw him at their door. They think he’s dead.

This is what it means to be alone. This man has no one waiting for him in the shadows or corners, nobody to fight with him except a bunch of wild animals. To the outside world, he doesn’t exist. Not even his own family has his back.

But the most amazing part is that despite this, he still wakes up each morning and doesn’t let himself be swallowed up by his loneliness. It was still there, I could see the pain and longing filling his eyes as he talked, but he doesn’t let it win.

If Polar Bear and his team of woodland creatures can overcome the monstrous inner voice, what’s stopping you?