I recently read a blog post entitled “Things I Wish People Told Me When I Entered My 20s.” Most of it was strange and, frankly, utterly depressing, but one part stuck with me: “You will have moments that will make you feel so exposed and alone. Eating solo star at a restaurant on a Friday night, going to the doctor, walking around aimlessly by yourself at 3 o’clock in the afternoon and deciding to catch a movie, walking home from a bar unattended, taking a long subway ride by yourself, waiting at the airport for someone to pick you up…” He explained that this was not something that was always hurtful, but in the wrong mood, being alone can be very painful.
That really got me thinking. In some ways, I guess I am a loner. I’ve always liked shopping by myself, reading by myself, exercising by myself.
But it ends there. At the end of a day, I always need to be with people. I, like most people, depend on family and friends to help me during hard times, share joy with me in happy times, and alleviate my boredom in, well, boring times.
The Torah certainly alludes to the difficulty of being alone. We are taught that in the event that somebody speaks lashon hara (evil words) he or she is sent out of the camp. In last week’s parsha, Miriam was banished to the outer camp when she spoke badly about her brother, Moshe. But the Torah makes a point of saying, “Viha’am lo nasah ad heasef Miriam”—the nation did not travel until they gathered Miriam. There was certainly a place for the punishment that Miriam endured for speaking lashon hara, but there was also a place for reunification with the camp of Israel.
Today was the first ever congressional hearing on solitary confinement and its detrimental effects on people. Whether or not these claims are true is hard to say. But I can tell, even from my very limited experience, that being alone can be good and also bad. It can be a time of reflection, introspection, and genuine soul-searching. But when being alone is taken to an extreme, it can hurt and even be dangerous.
 “Things I Wish People Told Me When I Entered My 20s,” by Ryan O’Connell, June 18, 2012. Available at: http://thoughtcatalog.com/2012/things-i-wish-people-told-me-when-i-entered-my-twenties/