Have you ever known what it felt like to go insane? To feel like your heart is in one place and your mind in another? Or maybe it’s the feeling of not knowing where your heart and mind are at all — just stuck in limbo, nowhere to be found. That’s what was happening now. I was going insane. My mind tossed somewhere out the window, and my heart lost in endless space. Delirious.
There is a saying : “Loneliness adds beauty to life. It puts a special burn on sunsets and makes night air smell better” (Henry Rollins). I would never have known the true meaning behind these words. Like in any story, I did eventually find out. And like most clichéd stories, it happened on New Year’s Eve.
It began with me walking down Ocean Drive. The streets were enveloped by groups of tourists and natives to Miami. Children stared in awe as they passed the marquee that broadcasted the new year countdown. A stage stood stationed beyond the patio area of a five-star restaurant. Those within the premises of the restaurant were clad in stiletto heels and club-worthy apparel. Singers belted out their best impersonation of Bruno Mars as dancers swayed their bodies with gusto — no trace of missing the beat and rhythm of the music. This was the sound of excitement for the crowd. The hope of it at least.
Some part of me felt happy for the insiders within the restaurant. For the rest of us, on the outside of the premises- we were spectators, looking on at the excitement from a distance. That was exactly it. I was an outsider. Why was I here?
I just came here to visit the beach, I reasoned to myself. This was my chance to get away from it all- do something fun and to venture out of the comfort of the covers of my bed and TV screen.
That was how the last two days had passed by. Alone on the beach among the crowd, feigning what I hoped to be peace of mind and oneness with nature. However, the egging feeling deep down was still the same as it was on the beach. Among the nightlife of a New Year’s Eve… it felt just the same. I looked around me as the mass of people walked up and down Ocean Drive just like a tide’s ebb and flow. The music still blared and people carried on with their drinking, mingling, drifting among the wave of the crowd. If this was the key to happiness, I wasn’t feeling it. If this was what it meant to be “alive”, I wasn’t living at all.
In that moment, I knew what I had to do. I had to escape.
It was then that I picked myself up from the grassy ground and wiped the dirt from my dress. I zipped up my jacket, placed my hands in my pockets, and ambled in the opposite direction of the crowd unnoticed. Going the opposite direction felt almost liberating. Freedom was calling to me in a delightful lull. I strolled down a lantern-lit path that led toward the ocean. My heart beating with excitement at my escape, beating to the sound of the crash of the waves as it met the shore. Several minutes passed by when finally, I found my final destination. The crowds thinned out, with only a few individuals scattered on the sandy beaches. The ocean was obscured by the night, but all the more enchanting as the full moon illuminated this haven from the crowd. I slid out of my boots and tossed them to the side. My toes kissed the wet sand as I sat myself on the cold, soft surface of grain mixed with saltwater. This was paradise.
The longer I sat among the sands, though, the more I felt the feeling seep back in- the feeling I hoped would be drowned out by the sea. It returned again. But as if someone had heard the emotions of my heart out loud, a light voice rang out:
“Hey! What are you doing here?”
“Oh! I’m just enjoying the beach for New Year’s,” I responded back in a polite tone, fighting in vain to hide the surprise of an unexpected visitor.
“You shouldn’t be by yourself. It’s not safe to be out here alone.” The woman’s eyes were wide with concern as she furrowed her eyebrows.
I felt badly as she looked at me with such worry.
“My hostel is super close. Don’t worry. I’m going to head back pretty soon,” I assured her with the most confidence I could muster, attempting to convince my mind to believe it as well.
She looked at me incredulously, but it did not even take a second to pass when she extended her hand. “I’m Stella and you know what: Hang out with me. You’re not going to be alone tonight. Not on New Year’s.”
While my mind told me not to take the hand of a stranger… I did it anyway.
Arm-in-arm, Stella led me to a crowd of strangers- strangers that even she did not know.
“Happy New Year’s!” she exclaimed cheerfully as we passed a group of older women dancing to disco music, inviting us to join them. With open arms, they welcomed us into their clan of festive music and dance. The lyrics of Last Dance by Donna Summer flowed through the speakers, capturing the moment that I would eventually replay over and over again in my mind. The notes of the music filled the air. Surely, the melodious notes would reach the stars — a declaration to the night. When the song had ended, a faux flower crown was bestowed on my head and my newfound friend.
Stella and I eventually ventured back to the beach. We plopped down on the edge of the beach. Thus, commenced our talk on life.
“So why are you really here?” she asked.
“I just wanted a vacation somewhere warm on the beach,” I responded back, ennui half-apparent in my voice.
“Girl, I’ve been in your shoes. I was here alone on this same beach during New Year’s last year. You came here to escape. That’s why you’re here. That’s why I’m here.”
Escape. She knew. Maybe deep inside, I already knew. I just wasn’t willing to admit it. I wanted to save face. To be strong. Prove to myself that it was no big deal to be alone. Being alone was one thing, but loneliness was another. Which one was I? To be honest, I didn’t know. Even so, as Stella made her confession to me on why she was here on this beach, I didn’t feel so alone. I felt relieved. Someone was here and not even preaching to me on why I was alone or what I should be doing about it. Stella was just here with me, sharing my loneliness.
It was within this hour, I had met Loneliness. We had walked down the beach. Danced with elderly disco ladies. Talked about life as if we were life-long friends.
Last but not least, we watched the fireworks light up the sky- the promise of hope for a new year.
This was bittersweet happiness. This was living.
Maybe this story is as cliché as every other New Year’s Eve story. But if it were never told, there would be no stories to fill the pages of history that have been etched in our hearts: the stories we know all too well, yet constantly replay to the point of insanity.
That New Year’s Eve night was the night when I had met Loneliness. Having the strength to hold its hand and not let go is seldom easy. The chance to meet Loneliness face to face and look at it square in the eye without flinching — without that natural instinct to run — is even more rare. Loneliness is often overlooked, blending in with the waves of the ocean or the mix of a crowd on a busy street. In life though, there is always a choice. On New Year’s Eve, I made mine.
Instead of drowning in Loneliness, I embraced it. A warm hug. A soft squeeze. It’s only in that moment when something beautiful happens. What we once thought was rooted is upturned. A new seed is planted.