One is the Loveliest Number
It takes a certain constitution to work contentedly from home by yourself. You can’t be one of those dreadful social creatures who enjoys “human interaction” and “unstructured conversations” and chit-chat and small talk and all of the other things that make office life soul-crushing but Dilbert hilarious. The dog talks! And wears eyeglasses! In violent defiance of what we know of canine behavior and God’s laws!
Nope, you’ve got to be a real anti-social Anthony, a Larry Loner, a Sidney Debilitating Social Anxiety if you’re going to really pursue a solo work environment hardcore the way I have with Nathan Rabin’s Happy Place. Thankfully, I am exactly that kind of painfully self-conscious, socially awkward misfit who thrives on the kind of solitude that drives other men insane. I’m talking week-in-solitary-confinement solitude. I’m talking other-side-of-the-moon solitude.
I’m the type of guy who takes the old maxim that no man is an island as a personal challenge. Oh, I can't be an island, huh? Just watch me!
This aversion to human interaction and human contact originated in my childhood, of course. I grew up alone. I found both a certain strange, sad solace in my independence and felt desperately, hopelessly lonely. I started living in my mind, in my imagination, and never really stopped.
There is such a thing as being too comfortable being by yourself, however. That’s one of the traps I have found myself in as a freelancer. When you don’t ever really have to interact with people, let alone on a daily basis, the ease and comfort of being by yourself for enormous amounts of time can be incredibly addicting.
And it’s not like I’m ever really alone when I am working from home. My dog is perpetually by my side. That is an ideal set-up. At forty-one, I now realize that I am one of those people who far prefers the company of animals to other human beings and probably always has. Being a dog owner provides many of the comforts and joys and rewards and pleasures of human contact and interaction with none of the anxiety and self-consciousness and fear that go along with it.
I did not become a writer because I have any great insight into the world. On the contrary, I am perpetually and deeply confused by people and seek only to make my eternal confusion interesting and relatable. I became a writer because I felt like it was a way to stand forever just outside humanity with the exception of my family.
I’m like a camel with water when it comes to human interaction A tiny amount can go me a long way and I’ve been spoiled in that I get everything that I need emotionally from my family, from my son and wife and dog, and from my writing and readers. I don’t need a bunch of friends and co-workers and office-mates, or anything even vaguely approaching regular human interaction, really.
But I would like to lead a little less solitary existence, and I fear that because my wife and my son and dog and readers are my world, I put undue pressure on them in a way that I might not if I led a more rounded, balanced existence rooted less obsessively and completely in family and work.
I like being alone more than is healthy, just as I tend to do everything in extremes. But I do think that the ability to be by yourself for long stretches of time without feeling lonely can be healthy and functional, even essential if you have a certain kind of brain and lead a certain kind of lifestyle. It’s a priceless gift and occasional curse I developed as a deeply awkward child and adolescent that has served me extraordinarily well as an only marginally less awkward and self-conscious adult.
Support Nathan Rabin’s Happy Place and Nathan Rabin’s healthy isolation from the rest of humanity at https://www.patreon.com/nathanrabinshappyplace