The Art Of Being Alone

: SOLO | Renuka Gavrani | Being Alone


Peter McGraw speaks to Renuka Gavrani, the author of “The Art of Being Alone: Solitude Is My HOME, Loneliness Was My Cage.

Listen to Episode #218 here


The Art Of Being Alone

I have a brief announcement before we get started. I’ll be moving the episodes to every other week. I need a little break post-book launch. Whether or not you are just may, no way, or new way single, there is value in solitude as discussed in an episode with Heather Hansen. We continue a look at solitude with the author of The Art of Being Alone: Solitude is My Home, Loneliness Was My Cage. Beyond her book, she’s a prolific writer and book blogger with a strong presence on social media where she shares insights on self-improvement, self-love, and achieving one’s dream life.


Welcome from India, Renuka Gavrani.

Thank you so much. That’s very kind of you.

Let’s jump right into it. This is an important question to start with but especially interesting given your youthfulness. What inspired you to write The Art of Being Alone? Can you share some of your journey from this idea of loneliness as a cage to solitude as a home?

My journey initially started when I was very young, maybe when I was in school in 8th class or 7th standard. What happened was that I was never the one who could make friends easily. If, for example, you and I talked, I would instantly think that we are going to be best friends. We have not even spent ten minutes together, but I would automatically assume that we are going to be best friends. When that doesn’t happen, I would feel so small or betrayed. I’m like, “Why don’t I have best friends?”

Then, college happened. Even in college, when I had good friends, I felt that something was missing. After that, COVID happened. While I was in college, my first group didn’t work out and I was completely lonely. The good thing was that somehow, in between college and school, when my first friendship with my college friends ended, I ended that friendship because my values and their values didn’t align.

I asked my friend, “We are going to have problems if you continue down this line.” She said then, “We’re not going to be friends.” I didn’t beg her to stay with me. I knew that I was going to be alone in college. In college life, people start making fun of you when you are alone, but I was okay with it because I didn’t want friends who I had to be together with because I didn’t have anyone.

After a few months, I found some really good people. They were so amazing. They felt like family. They felt like a home away from home, but then, COVID happened and I was alone again. I didn’t know what to do because my college was in between when COVID happened. I was supposed to get a degree. I was supposed to get a job. I was nowhere in between all of this. I didn’t have a purpose as well. Everybody in my friend group knew what they wanted to do except me.

When I went back to my hometown with my parents, I didn’t have a single friend there, so I didn’t know how to share what I was feeling with anybody. From there, it all started. I started reading a lot of books. I started spending a lot of time alone with myself. What I figured out at that time was that I enjoyed being alone. I was never the kind of person who liked going to parties, hanging out with a bunch of people, or doing things for the sake of it. I was always the kind of person who would want to have very passionate conversations on a topic that I am excited about, or I would want to know your experience about things. I wanted to go deeper.

I realized that I never wanted to be the kind of cool kid that American web series and American movies show. I realized, “I am alone. That is a fact. Why don’t I enjoy it?” Why is it inserted in our minds that loneliness is something that you have to be afraid of? Why is it inserted in our minds that the thought of being yourself should be so cruel that you have to go out of your way to find people to love you? You cannot beg people to love you. Why is it then fed to our minds that we have to find people, people whom we can post cute pictures with on social media?

I can bet you on this. If you see any American movie or any movie for that matter how they show a lonely person is they’re very ugly or they’re not the cool kid. They’re the people who you should have sympathy for. They’re not invited to parties. We fear this kind of treatment. We don’t want to be treated as the weird ones, so we go out of our way to be the cool kid and be the one who has a lot of friends around.

I have read so many books on loneliness as well as fiction ones, and everything would go all right. They would show a person who is lonely and join their company until they would label that person as psychotic or a person who has some kind of mental illness. My only question was, why is the thought of spending time with yourself considered to be so cruel and brutal that you have to go out of your way to become someone who would be loved by everybody?

My biggest question was, how can the thought of spending time with yourself be so cruel that you have to go out of your way to become someone who everybody would love? You are wearing certain kinds of clothes, speaking in certain words, using certain words in your language, or maybe gossiping about people so that people love you more. I thought that I would rather be alone, enjoy my own company, and do the things that make me happy rather than become the ideal person who everybody loves but I, in the process, end up losing myself.

I was reading a lot of books as well. What I realized was that all these great people and all these great artists were the ones who sought solitude. They went out of their way to spend some time alone, travel deep within their minds, and explore the depths of their own thoughts. That is the reason I say that. If you compare the kind of books that were written in the early ‘80s or ‘90s and the books that are written now, they’re completely different. Classics are classics for a reason. Why?

If you read Little Women, for example, there are four women in Little Women. There are four different characters. It was written way back in the early ‘80s. Yet, I’m able to feel inspired by the character of Beth from the book, Little Women. How is it possible that a woman I didn’t know about or a woman who had a different country and different culture could create a character that could inspire me?

That is because creativity is not when an idea drops into your mind from heaven. It’s not for chosen ones. Creativity is when you explore the very common things that are a part of your mind because, at the end of the day, humans are all the same. When you explore the journal thoughts of your own mind, you create something that everybody else thinks.

I so appreciate the depth of your thinking. Before we explore a little more about what you’re saying, can we step back? For the folks who have not read Little Women, can you talk about this character a little bit?

People might come at me for saying this because when I say, “The art of being alone,” they think that I am asking them to push everybody away, lock themselves in their room, and not have any relation with anybody. On the contrary, this is not what I mean. This character, Beth March, from Little Women is a young girl who loves life. She lives for those small little moments that people ignore because people are busy chasing big things. She’s very loving and caring.

I’m sorry for the spoiler, but Beth dies in the book. She died very young. Unlike her sisters, she didn’t have big dreams for life. Of the other 3 sisters, 1 wanted to get married, 1 wanted to travel the world, and 1 wanted to become a writer or something like that, but she never had big dreams. She says in the book that, “Unlike you, I never had big dreams. I never thought that there was something beyond today.” That was really inspiring to me that you live your today so well that you forget that you have to plan your tomorrow. I loved her kind, compassionate nature. I try to be that kind of a person. I’m not perfect. I do selfish things sometimes, but that is the character that I look up to.

She lives very much in the moment and enjoys the day-to-day, which is fitting given that she dies. That’s the message. Don’t put off too much for tomorrow because you don’t know if it’ll be there. I wanted to say a few things in response to how aware and introspective you were early on. There are two forms of loneliness. There’s not having the one, having that romantic connection that you desire even though you may have deep and broad friendships.

When I was in my twenties, I experienced that form of loneliness. Young people are particularly at risk for loneliness in part because they haven’t always developed the skills by which to create meaningful relationships, whether they be platonic or romantic. Many of them figure that out and can move on from it.

I really am struck by an observation that you make, which I’ve never considered. It is for platonic friendships and how people may turn themselves into someone who’s not authentic in order to fit in. It’s the fact that you were able to pick up on that and see an alternative, which is the path of the creative, the person who embraces their solitude. I suspect you’ve come across Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own and how she lamented to be able to release themselves from caregiving and lean into creative work, which is enhanced oftentimes by solitude.

To answer your first question that loneliness can be of 2 types, 1 is not having the 1, the perfect one, or the romantic partner. I blame a lot on the media and the kind of books that we read. Western culture is catching up in Asia as well, specifically India. When I was growing up, I did not see every other person having an affair or every other person in their early twenties, or even when they were in high school or they started college having a boyfriend or a girlfriend. Now, everybody has a girlfriend or boyfriend.

10-year-old or 12-year-old girls and boys are having affairs. They are saying, “She’s my boyfriend. He’s my boyfriend. She’s my girlfriend.” I’m like, “This is not your age to do it,” and they’re like, “How can you say that? You’re so educated.” The thing is that if you are educated, the thought that you should not have a boyfriend or girlfriend at this stage is wrong. Apparently, this is what the media has taught us.

I blame a lot of American web series there. In every high school web series that you see, they are all worried about not having enough sex. What is that? High school kids are not worrying about their college degrees or their careers. They’re not worrying about not having enough hobbies. They’re worried about not having enough sex and not having the perfect partner. They should have figured it out. If this is the kind of media that we consume, we would feel there’s something wrong with us. Maybe we are not good-looking enough. Maybe we are not smart enough to attract a partner.

I blame the media for that. I had a really interesting incident regarding that. I was talking to a friend of mine. He said that there was a movie in India. I don’t remember the name. What he did was he cut his thumb and there was blood in it. With that blood, he put that blood on his girlfriend’s forehead.

That is a ritual in India where you put the sindoor on your wife’s forehead, which is a ritual that is performed during weddings. He puts that blood on her girlfriend’s forehead to signify, “Now, we are married.” My friend was telling me that when he was in fifth standard, he did the same thing. He cut his thumbnail and put that blood on a random girl’s forehead, which he liked, signifying that they were married.

That is a very weird example to give, but it’s to show you that this is how the media impacts our brains and our lives, to worry about if you do not have a perfect one is to feel incomplete in your own self and to feel that you need someone to make you feel good and make you feel complete. That itself signifies why you need some time alone so that you can figure out you don’t need a person to do something at all times.

: SOLO | Renuka Gavrani | Being Alone
The Art of Being Alone

When you start feeling as complete as who you are at this particular moment, the perfect one will automatically show up at your doorstep. It’s not the magical doorstep, but they will. Eventually, you’ll find that person because you are looking from a space of completeness, not a space of desperation where you have to feel that there’s something wrong about you or there’s something wrong with your life and you have not figured out the perfect one.

I share some of your views about the media. The media reflects culture, but also, the media creates culture. There are not enough powerful solitary characters in television, film, books, and music. This is cross-cultural, though there may be some differences. Some of it is practical. It’s harder to make an interesting solitary character because you need scenes, dialogue, and a lot of things that go in that direction, but it can be done. It ought to be done more especially because that reflects this changing world that we live in demographically. We’re seeing a rise in singles globally, certainly in the United States. This is even happening in India, a very traditional culture that still has arranged marriages.

The place that you can see this is in the greater acceptance of LGBTQ+ people because you’re seeing them shown positively in books, films, music, television, and so on in that way. This gives me hope, but it’s a slow process. What you’re highlighting is how this can victimize people because they are at the whims of culture. They’re at the whims of the media. They think that’s how you’re supposed to behave, in that sense. Seeing you break free of that and recognize that is a powerful moment in your life.

Was there a particular moment in time that this clicked for you, especially to realize this? There is a narrative about being complete, but even still, that narrative about being complete is still about finding someone’s. It’s about being a good person and working on yourself so that you can then attract someone else rather than working on yourself for the sake of working on yourself. Even the complete improve-yourself-self-care conversation that’s happening culturally is still in service of attracting other people.

I formally believe in this thing that no matter how far you want to fly or how strong your belief in yourself is, if someone keeps pulling you down or someone keeps reminding you that you are not good enough, you’ll eventually believe them because that’s how our brains function. Similarly, if someone keeps reminding you that you have to find someone to feel complete or have a purpose in life to have kids or have a family, or that you have to find somebody and the train has already left the station, you feel that you have to find somebody.

I’ll give you this example. When I was in college, I got a lot of proposals left and right, but I never said yes to any of them. Even when my crush proposed to me, I said no because my idea was very simple. It was, “I entered college to win and do something with my life. I have no interest in these things. As long as I don’t become something, I’m not going to go down this line because that’s only going to take away from my focus.”

My friends kept asking me, “Why don’t you say yes to this guy?” or, “You are beautiful. You are young. This is your age to do these things. Irrespective of how strong my own belief was, I started thinking, “She is right. Maybe this is my age. Maybe I am wasting my youthful years. Maybe I’m wasting my twenties in studies or always being in the library. Maybe I should have some time to do all these things.”

I’m not saying whether you should have a partner in your early twenties or not. What I’m saying is that if someone keeps reminding you of a particular factor, you start believing them. You start thinking about these things. The reason why the very thought of incompleteness comes is because somebody or the other will keep reminding you, “Your life is incomplete. You should have a partner so you can do this and can do that. You are beautiful. You are young. You should live wild.” Even when you don’t want to live wild, you start thinking, “Am I missing out on something? Am I wasting my life? Am I wasting my years?”
I believe that’s how things go around.

This is something I’ve talked about a lot. It is that human beings’ superpower is to cooperate. We’re very good at following the rules. We’re sensitive to what other people think because we want to get along. We don’t want to disappoint people. We don’t want friction. It’s incredible how often people will tell you what you should do. What they’re often telling you is what they want to do. They’ve been told what they should do. They’ve been told what to do. It’s this domino effect.

To this, I would add that if someone is in a bad circle or they’re doing bad things, they know that they’re doing these things, and they would want you to solve for that as well because they cannot see that someone else is doing good in their life and have a good life. Even when they’re not living while drinking and indulging in mindless sex, they cannot stand that. They would want you to fall for that as well.

Western culture is showing up in Asia, specifically in India. I don’t know the reason behind it, but Indians want to be like Americans. They would do everything that Americans are doing, and then they would normalize it as, “This is what educated people do.” I will give you an example. I was doing my first job and my team lead asked all of the teammates to go for a get-together. It was this casual, unprofessional kind of hangout where we would hang out, talk, and get to know each other beyond our tasks.

We went there and everybody ordered their drinks. They asked me, “What do you want?” I don’t drink, so I said that I would have coffee. They started laughing at me. When their drinks arrived, they said, “Why don’t you give it a try? Why don’t you take one sip? Maybe you’ll like it?” My answer was like, “Why don’t you cut someone’s finger? If you like it, murder them.” That’s an extreme example, but I was like, “If I don’t want to drink, why can you not respect it? I can respect your choice and sit with you when you are drinking. Why is it so tough for you to admit that someone can live a wild, happy life without drinking?” I cannot tell you how many times I was forced to try a drink or cigarettes, but I did not.

There are these parallels. When I was in college, I didn’t drink. Whatever it is, there is that thing that is part of the norm that most people do. Some of this is well-intentioned. They want you to get along. They want you to have fun. They want you to be like them again, which is this notion of cooperation, but they never think the opposite. This comes up time and time again within the community and the conversations that people have are one direction with regard to being single, for example. They’re like, “I’m concerned about you. Is there someone special?”

It would be completely inappropriate and off-putting if you had a relationship and I was like, “I’m really concerned about you. You’re in a relationship. There’s a lot of violence in relationships. There’s a lot of heartbreak in relationships. How are you protecting yourself in this relationship?” Your friend would be like, “What are you talking about? This is what I’m supposed to be doing.”

If you say to the table, “I’m really concerned about your alcohol use. Alcohol is bad for you. I thought you wanted to have a good night’s sleep tonight. You’re not going to have a good night’s sleep tonight because you’re drinking.” This goes against the grain in a way that when you point it out, it makes sense that this shouldn’t go in one direction, but it does.

As part of this journey, you’ve recognized the role that media plays and culture play more generally. You’re very clearly not just self-aware, but you have a strong personality. You’re comfortable going against the grain. You’re comfortable saying, “No, thank you,” in a sense. That’s incredibly powerful and useful. Most people never get there in life. They follow the rules without even considering whether the rules work well for them or not.

People drink because that’s what you do. People get married because that’s what you do. You get the approval of everyone else around you. Recognizing this can allow you to escape loneliness. You can suddenly feel okay with your state of the world, like, “I’m choosing this state of the world,” but you went further than that and embraced solitude. You seek out solitude. Did that come from the books that you were reading? Where did that notion of, “I’m going to lean into my alone time,” come from?

Honestly, the self-help books that I was reading at some point in time.

What were you reading? What are some examples?

I started with The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari by Robin Sharma. That book really helped me. That book got me into reading. I was reading all kinds of self-help books. You name it. I’ve read Atomic Habits, Eat That Frog!, The 5AM Club, and all these kinds of things, but I did not learn a single thing from them. I learned how to wake up early, do this, and do that, but I feel that self-help books, while they’re great at reminding you how life should be lived, are not the customized way of living.

For example, you and I are completely different. If I write a book and I say, “You should do this and do that,” you might feel, “I now want to change my life,” but then, it won’t stick because it doesn’t come from you. These pieces of advice are coming at you, not from you, so you won’t be able to sustain them. What I did was, interestingly, I stopped reading all these self-help books because I became too overwhelmed to sustain all this knowledge. Every time I read a self-help book and read a bunch of advice, I felt motivated and felt like changing my life, but nothing happened. I felt like a failure. I was wasting my time reading these books and not doing anything.

I started spending a lot of time alone. I also started using Pinterest. I read on Pinterest that the time you spend alone is the time where you find yourself or you start to enjoy the mundane moments of your life. On Pinterest only, I was given this advice to try to drink your morning coffee alone with complete awareness and try to feel the happiness it gives you with that one cup of coffee. There’s also a quote that says, “If you cannot be happy with a cup of coffee, you won’t be happy with anything else.” I was like, “Let’s try it.” I started spending a lot of time alone.

The one thing was that COVID was there. My college was over by the time I started valuing the importance of solitude. I was reading these kinds of things. I automatically had a lot of time alone. I didn’t have a job and didn’t have a purpose or anything like that, so I had a lot of time alone. To make life interesting, I thought, “Let’s do things that I enjoyed as a child and see how that makes me feel.”

I started doing these random things at home. I started learning knitting. I started learning crochet. My sister would say, “Why are you learning knitting? These are all old granny habits. No one learns them these days.” My instant reaction was, “I’m not building a life to impress anybody else. I’m building a life to impress myself, something that I want to wake up to.” That’s how I understand it. It’s spending a lot of time alone, and by doing these things, it’s bringing little movements of happiness.

Also, I learned somewhere to practice the art of doing nothing. I would go around 5:00 PM to my terrace and I would watch the sunset. Somehow, initially, I started talking to myself about any random thing. I would start talking about something completely out of the world, and then I would figure out, “This is what I think about this particular concept.” I would start talking about habits. I would start talking about the reward system.

My thoughts and views on those things would be so different that I would be completely surprised that this is what I was thinking. I didn’t even know because I didn’t consciously sit down to think about these things. It came to my mind. I started talking to myself and realized, “This is what my actual thought process is.”

: SOLO | Renuka Gavrani | Being Alone
Little Women

The art of doing nothing helped me so much to understand my own thoughts. I believe that like when you overeat, your tummy gets upset. It cannot digest everything. The next day, you have all these issues. Similarly, your brain cannot process all the information that you keep feeding it with the endless TikToks, social media scrolls, or someone telling you what you should do and what you should not do.

That is why there is so much mental fog. That is why young people are not able to focus on their jobs. That is why they’re not able to make decisions. Even the slightest decisions, they’re not able to make. That is where I learned that you have to give your mind some rest to understand what is going on in your mind and to free your mind from the existing clutter. This is where the art of being alone, practicing the art of doing nothing and enjoying this time is.

There are times when I can sit all on my own and I’m not doing anything and I won’t get bored. I won’t feel the need to do anything. I’m sitting under the study. I study the sky and I’m feeling complete. I don’t want to talk to anybody. I don’t want to do anything. I’m enjoying my time. A lot of people are not able to do it because they’re not able to practice the art of being alone or the art of doing nothing. The moment they sit alone is the time when their own mind starts attacking them. Their mind starts reminding them of all the mistakes they have made, of all the unfulfilled dreams, and of all the unfulfilled desires of their own truths.

When you sit down, your truth or consciousness starts to wake you up. It starts to make you realize who you truly are and what you are doing. Since you don’t give yourself any time to be alone, you are always feeding your brain something. You are always becoming something. If I’m talking to you, I’m giving you the answers. You’re like, “I don’t have the time to be myself at this moment.” If you are always with other people, then how will you get the time to be yourself? There’s a quote, “You are the average of five people you spend most of your time with.” My question is if you don’t spend any time with yourself, how will you become the average of yourself? That is where it came from.

That’s really wonderful. I like that take on the five people. You’re the most important person, and you’re always with yourself. I’m reminded of the French philosopher, Blaise Pascal, in the 1600s who wrote, “All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” I know that’s hyperbolic, but nonetheless, it points out exactly what you’re talking about, if you don’t give yourself space.

The other thing I wanted to say is that you recognize something that I deeply agree with, and it’s missing from many of these self-help books. It is that if you read a self-help book, it gives you one path and it assumes that everybody should follow that path. For example, there are these books on habits. You mentioned Atomic Habits. Habits are really wonderful and are very useful for many people, but habits are of limited usefulness for some people and more important for other people.

There is no one remarkable life. There are remarkable lives in the same way that marriage is over-prescribed. Marriage works really well for lots of people, but it doesn’t work well for everyone. This puts the burden on the individual to decide, “What advice works for me? What advice works for other people?”

Speaking of advice, I suspect there are people who have read thus far and have checked out the previous episode on solitude. I have a chapter in my book about it. I’m sure folks will be reading your book. In the meantime, this idea of sitting alone with your coffee or sitting alone and watching a sunset, to Pascal’s point, can initially be very aversive. We have habits with our phones. We have ways that we distract ourselves. What advice would you give people who recognize the wisdom in what you’re saying and want to step into a world where they are fully present in the moment?

I’ll give you a spoiler from my own book. My third book is coming soon. I talk about the magical hours. I believe that the moment you wake up and step outside of your home, or even if you open your phone, the world starts to demand certain things from you. The world starts to demand you to become somebody. If I am with someone who is very joyful, bright, and in a dancing mood in the morning and I’m a person who likes to take my line to even open my mind, I would have to match their energy. I would have to smile.

My thought is that from the very first moment you wake up and step outside of your home, people start to demand certain things from you. You have got responsibility. You have got to go to your job. You have to meet your partner. You have to hang out with your friends. The thing is that something keeps happening. At that time, people might say, “I don’t get the time to be alone. You might have the luxury to sit alone, but I don’t have that.”

What I can say is that there’s something called the magical hours. Let’s say that you have to go to the office by 10:00. Instead of waking up at 9:30 or 9:00 and rushing everything, accusing everybody, cursing your boss, and cursing, you wake up at around 7:30. You take your time to wake up. You cuddle in your blanket and realize how comfortable my blanket is and how beautiful the day is going to be. You wake up and take a long shower. You make your coffee. While making the coffee, I want you to pay attention to the aroma of coffee beans that are filling your kitchen.

The very moment when you allow yourself to step into your own life, the aroma of your coffee beans, let that be your reminder to step into your life, to invite your consciousness back into your life, and to feel that this is the moment that is true. This is the moment that you are here. You are safe, and you can do anything you want.

You start your day filling your lungs with the aroma of coffee and realizing how beautiful the day is going to be and how blessed you are. You then take your coffee, sit beside your window, and watch the rays of sunshine touching your cheeks. You are happy at that very moment. Maybe you are dancing in your apartment, or you are doing yoga or anything at all.

Instead of waking up, accusing everybody, and rushing through the door because you have a responsibility and you have to take over the world, the morning time is the time when you don’t have to talk to everybody. You don’t have any responsibility. You don’t have anyone to get back to. This is a precious start to a new life.

Either you can choose to bring out the dirt from the previous day or you can choose to start fresh. If you make the choice to start fresh and you say, “I am going to make this one hour of my morning magical by doing anything that I enjoy or by sitting with myself and not caring about the world,” that would be the moment you would invite yourself back to your life and start practicing the art of doing nothing. The art of doing nothing is not necessarily where you sit alone and study your thoughts. It’s also when you don’t do anything very purposefully. You don’t find the purpose of doing a certain thing. You do it because it makes you happy. It’s bringing joy to your life, so you are doing it.

This is my advice to everybody who is reading this. Make your morning time your magical hours. Start from there to invite yourself back to your life to make this 1 hour or 30 minutes of your life very magical and amazing. How you spend the first hour of your morning will determine your mood for the rest of the day. You have to make sure that before the world demands you to be someone else, you spend this one hour completely being yourself. You step out of your door so happy and joyful that you get to experience this wonderful little life.

I get the sense you really like coffee.

I love it.

I understand coffee is your example, but it doesn’t have to be coffee. It could be meditation. It could be stretching. It could be whatever it is.

You used the word meditation. I don’t think meditation is when you are being a monk, sitting in one place, closing your eyes, and thinking, “Now, I’m becoming conscious.” Meditation is when you do anything without any purpose. You do it for the sake of enjoying it, and you are conscious of the very moment. I use the concept of coffee because a couple of years back when I didn’t have a job, I didn’t have anything to go to or do anything and I was feeling very stressed.

With the kinds of advice that I read from self-help books that you have to find a purpose, do big things, and that and this, I found that if you can wake up with at least one thing to be excited about, then you have a purpose in life. It could be as simple as enjoying your coffee or dancing in your apartment. That would be your purpose for the day. That is why I use the example of coffee a lot.

I get it, but also, it is in line with your favorite character from Little Women. How do you find joyful moments within a day? You’re not living in the future. You’re not delaying too much gratification. You have to balance these things. You have to plan for a long future but have to enjoy the moments of the day because that long future is not guaranteed.

I want to ask about the reception of this book. For some people, this is a very threatening idea. This is one that is an uncomfortable idea. It goes against a cultural narrative, which is you’re supposed to wake up next to this person, and you’re supposed to together create a wonderful day that you share with someone else. You’re suggesting finding time for yourself typically early on, assuming your schedule can accommodate that. I certainly feel like I have that at the end of the day when I turn everything off and I’m digitally disconnected. The people in your life, the media, and the reactions to this book, what has it been, especially as a young Indian woman giving advice that goes against the cultural narrative?

Firstly, I thought this book would only be read by people who are in their early twenties and they’re in college. They’re finding it very difficult to make friends, and they’re trying to be someone else because they don’t want to come out as weird. Surprisingly, people of all ages have been able to connect with it. I got a video review from an Australian guy who had a wife and two children. He said that my book has helped him so much to bring more love and nurturing to his own relationships. I was surprised at how that happened. Loneliness doesn’t only happen when you don’t have anybody else. It can also happen when you are in a relationship and you’re not able to get time for yourself.

When you say, “How did the book do? It did really well, but then again, there were some people who emailed me and said, “Your book is complete trash. You should not have written it. Don’t try it again.” Certain ideas are not going to match with certain people, and that’s okay. Some people didn’t like it. Some found it very threatening.

: SOLO | Renuka Gavrani | Being Alone
The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari: A Fable About Fulfilling Your Dreams & Reaching Your Destiny

There’s this one line from my book. It says, “After a certain point of age, you stop finding soulful friends.” I don’t know why people found it so threatening. They messaged me on Instagram that I was wrong. They were like, “You could find soulful friends at any age.” I said, “It could happen, but for the majority of the people, it doesn’t happen. I have written a book with my experience and for the majority. The majority of people don’t find friends after a certain age like you have done in your college or your jobs. It’s hard to find soulful friends.”

If you are sitting there and fantasizing that someone will come, make your life complete, love you, and save you from the world, then that is not going to happen. That is what I meant that after a certain point of time, you cannot find soulful friends. You have to stop fantasizing about all these things and imagining that someone is going to come to save your life. With that, people found it very threatening.

To the reader, you are a wonderful fit with the SOLO community. It’s really fun to see you come to these conclusions independently. I talk about how solos are wholehearted. They see themselves as a complete person. They’re not looking for someone to complete them. They’re also not looking for someone to solve their problems.

While they may be hopeful to meet others, they may be hopeful to make friends, or they may be hopeful to find romance, they are not hopeless. They’re not waiting around. I have a saying, “What are you waiting for?” To sit and wait for someone to come along, fix you, fix your problems, and so on is giving up a lot of power in your life and delaying growth, which is important.

I was doing that. You used the word hopeless. People are fantasizing and overusing the word hopeless romantic. They’re treating it as something really beautiful and amazing, but you are living in delusion and fantasizing delusion. I have done it. When my college life ended and I was at home, I imagined that someday, somebody would come and they would become my best friend. I imagined that we’d have all the fun that I watch in movies and my life would be so good and amazing. There comes a point where you get tired of your own shit. I got tired of that.

When I started practicing the art of being alone, I realized, “This is how I am fantasizing about my loneliness. I am fantasizing that someday, someone will come and save me.” That was the hitting point. I wrote about this experience or this realization in one of my articles on Medium, and that went crazy viral. A lot of people were able to relate to how unconsciously, they’re waiting for someone to save them. It’s because of the role that the media plays that it’s always a poor little angel girl who is caged in a castle and the guy saves her. The same goes with the guy and the girl saves her.

I’m so heartened by your perspective. One of the things that I really like that’s happening is there’s this chorus of voices that are emerging around these topics. There’s a behavioral scientist named Bella DePaulo who’s written about this. She’s done a lot of myth-busting. When I launched my show, there was no other show that had that tone. There were shows about single living, but they weren’t about celebrating it. It was about solving this problem. We’re seeing books pop up as well as memoirs and podcasts. We’re seeing media that’s creating a counter-narrative, to your point, but what we need to start happening, and this will be slow, is the big media.


Those are the movies, TV shows, and Taylor Swifts of the world which can reach lots of people and present an alternative view that is more balanced and beneficial. If you never have time for yourself, you never have a chance to introspect, a chance to grow, and a chance to get to know yourself. I like that you have a very actionable step. It’s small, and it’s a start in this way.

If you’re making a case for solitude as you do in your book and how beneficial it is, and how it can help you address the loneliness that can be very natural in someone’s life, besides getting to know oneself, what are the other valuable elements of solitude that you like to put forth to the people you’re talking to?

When you start spending time alone, not only do you get to know yourself in a very deeper way, but you also become very independent. You stop romanticizing your loneliness and thinking that somebody’s going to save you. More than that, what happens is that you become creative. You start to have the kind of thoughts, opinions, and views that nobody has.

We started talking about the example of Little Women. If the author of Little Women, Louisa May Alcott, wanted to become the author of Anne of Green Gables, she wouldn’t have been able to write this iconic book that is still famous. Why was she able to do it? You talked about Virginia Woolf’s book, A Room of One’s Own, and how women didn’t have their own rooms and their own spaces to work on their novels.

This personal space is not limited to only your physical space. It is also about having enough mental space where you can go back to and study your thoughts and be yourself. It’s not necessary that I have to lock myself in my room in order to practice the art of being alone. It is also when I am among other people. I can belong to something deeper in myself that I don’t have to seek a place physically to go back to. I can go back to my mind and I can be myself.

When you spend time alone, you touch that untouched part of your soul that is not polluted by the world, that is not touched by your relatives, and that is not touched even by you. When you spend time alone, you touch that untouched part of your soul, and you start to do everything with that untouched part. How would that happen?

When I was writing my book, The Art of Being Alone, I thought, “There are so many books on loneliness already. Why am I adding noise in the background?” I kept writing and said, “I’m not adding noise. I’m adding music in the background. Many opinions already exist, but an opinion like mine doesn’t exist.” There are points in my books where my thought process is completely different than what you would find already in the external world.

There’s another book that I’m writing about the magic of creative living. To give you a gist of it, what we have learned since childhood is that creativity is for certain chosen ones. It is for people who are smarter than you and more intelligent than you. It is for people who are into creative fields and people who are artists, writers, and painters. If you are not the chosen one and creative ideas don’t come to you automatically or effortlessly, or if you are not from a creative field, then you have no relation to creativity. You live your life like a normal person. You are an ordinary person.

I refuse to believe this idea because creativity is the birthright of every single person and how it is that creativity is not limited to your work. It’s not limited to what you write about in your work. Your biggest creative assignment is your life. How creatively you live your day-to-day life will determine the artistry of your life. You have to take your life and treat it as your private creative assignment. You have to mess it up. You have to give it your touch. You have to invite your consciousness back into your life so that you can make your life completely a reflection of your soul.

You are not living a reflection of the materialistic things that people say you should have. You are not living a reflection of what a person in their 20s or their 25s should do. You are not living a reflection of what movies have told you you should do. You should live a reflection of your soul so that when you look back in life, you may think, “I could have a few more dollars in my bank account,” or, “I could have the new Dior bag,” or something like that.

When you look at your life, you feel satisfied. You’re like, “I did everything that I wanted. I messed up my life. I made wrong decisions, but I made them right. I listened to other people, but I did what I thought was right.” It is creativity not with your work, but for your life. I believe that everybody should take it as their responsibility to make their life their best creative work.

That is such a powerful idea. It’s a big idea. In my second book, I define creativity as creating a novel solution. It’s a new solution. It’s not what’s been done before. You can apply that to things that are big or small. You can apply it to creating a Pinterest page. You can apply it to writing a book, a song, or something like that, but what is more important than all of those things is the creation of your life.

I talk a lot about designing your life. I talk about designing your relationships rather than defaulting on them. This idea that there is no one remarkable life, but there are remarkable lives then puts the onus on the individual to do that creation process. What you’re suggesting is that solitude, the art of doing nothing, and becoming comfortable in these moments of time allows you to turn your attention to the most creative task in your life, which is deciding what is the right path for you. That’s incredible. That’s really wonderful and important.

: SOLO | Renuka Gavrani | Being Alone
Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones

I don’t know how we can top that. We’ll finish with that idea. If someone walks away with, “I don’t know what I want to do with my solitude. I’m not a writer. I’m not a musician. I’m not an artist. I’m not the chosen one,” they know what to do, which is to reflect on their life and see, “How can I solve my problems in a way that might be unique to me?”

Thank you for writing this book. Thank you for adding your voice to this powerful chorus of people who recognize how the relationship with oneself is so important, how to foster that, how to escape this terrible feeling of loneliness, which can really be debilitating, and how to start to think for oneself. You are a wonderful example of that. I want to say thank you and thank you for joining us.

Thank you so much for inviting me. I was lucky enough to be invited because what you are doing with this community is so great. You said when you started this show, there were people who were talking about solitude as a problem to be solved. You started it as a way to celebrate solitude, so hats off to you.



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