+Mohamed Mansour (creator of many awesome G+ Chrome Extensions) and I got into an interesting discussion about being "alone" and "loneliness" on a +Trey Ratcliff G+ hangout tonight. (Perhaps this is a good Valentine's Day topic!)

Mohammed asked me why I didn't feel lonely when spending all day taking photos by myself... I struggled to give him an answer, and in part tried to answer him with this photo. Now there are people in this photo, but it was a special "alone" moment for me, because it was taken during the Super Bowl last week. For any of you who know this beach in Oahu (Kailua) it's normally packed with people. I had a peaceful feeling of solitude out there, very happy to be alone and capturing one of my favorite places with almost no people in a habitually crowded spot.

I told +Mohamed Mansour that some of the things I'm most proud of in life required that I spend months and months (and even years) by myself. This brought about a few laughs from the other listeners... :-) +Trey Ratcliff weighed in with his thoughts on this same experience. After logging out of the hangout and having some time to reflect, I realized that what I had trouble articulating to Mohamed during during the hangout is that the experience of solitude is totally different from feeling lonely. In solitude, one can think more clearly - in fact, my inability to explain to him was a perfect example of it. I couldn't really give him a good answer to his question with 10 people in the Hangout... It was too chaotic for me to even gather my thoughts.

So here's a better answer...

Have you ever felt alone in a room of people? I think all of us have. Or even felt lonely when you're one on one with someone you don't like? (Imagine a bad date..) You feel so different, so apart from that other person, that you start to wonder if there's anyone else for you in this world. (There is, don't worry!)

Conversely, have you ever been alone and not felt lonely? It may mean you're enjoying solitude. Solitude is something you choose when you want to enjoy your own company. That sounds a little funny, but if you don't enjoy your own thoughts and feelings, will anyone else? In solitude, you can reflect, learn, grow, create. Almost all the things that make me deeply satisfied require solitude.

Loneliness chooses you. Solitude is a choice. By choosing solitude, you'll rarely feel lonely.

Happy Valentine's Day :-)
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