It was a particularly dirge-like morning recently when I was struck forcefully by the notion that I was destined to become a recluse; just like my parents. That maybe it was genetic and as inescapable a fate as my green eyes. I didn’t mind a bit.
I have no evidence to back this up except two parents who avoided people, individually and en masse, like battle weary men avoid the January sales. My father is from a long line of cattle station rugrats who wasn’t comfortable if there were more than two people within 100km of his position.
My mum married into the hermit-like nature that lifestyle brings with it. You went to town every three months maximum. If it weren’t for non-perishable foodstuffs we would never have gone. The mail came once a week (bonus: reduced contact hours with people) and otherwise it’s just you and a vast expanse of nothingness and the the whistle of the wind.
You learn to love a gardening pitchfork and the pin prick mini details of all that simplicity. Fossicking about in gardens, contemplating this and that … self reflection. I have no doubt that when my sister leaves home at the end of this year my mother will gather her belongings in a trundle cart and dart off into the mountains where she can be left in peace with her animals and vegetable patch and her rudimentary humpy.
And I might not have many years left before I do the same.
My family are not the Amish but sometimes I felt like it as a kid. I wanted nothing more than to cast of the chains of my regional postcode and head to the bright lights of the cities. Which I did and have been doing now for the better part of seven years. I’ve lived on the 50th floor of a highrise, in resorts, in lofts, around people.
It’s all very lovely being young and full of vim and vigour, getting caught in the thrum of people who are just as happy as you to find themselves siphoning off the energy of all these urbanites living in close proximity. But it doesn’t last. Or at least, it didn’t for me. Lurking in the shadows of my debut performance around throngs of people was this unsettled social anxiety.
My friend Bridie used to remind me, when I was young(er) and filled with the radioactive glow of the desire to escape into the world. “Never forget where you come from,” she said. Forget? I planned to tie it to a rocket and fire it into the sun. I would have watched the launch gleefully as the little rocket towed my past into the inferno.
It didn’t happen like that. Forgetting was not an option. Escape was an illusion of space, but an impossibility in thought.
I don’t, as a general rule, like people. No, let’s be precise: I don’t like being around people.
Not their fault. Usually nothing to do with them (unless they have robbed me / made me listen to Korn) but it’s just there. I found my closest friends early and everything since then has been an unspooling pastiche of faces.
I did my bit. I went out to countless parties and events (against my better judgment). I ran away from many more. I subjected plenty to hours and hours and hours of pointless chitchat (yes, well, the plums are out this time of year) when really all I wanted was to sit alone with my thoughts.
Damn you genetics! A recluse is not someone who exists alone because society has shunned them. A recluse is someone who chooses to opt out of all that engagement. That’s me. I could do all that small talk if I wanted to. I could say yes to the events, to the get togethers, to the gatherings but it’s all just so … exhausting.
It’s terribly uncool to admit it, but leave me to a cottage in the countryside to tend my thoughts.
They’ll ripen one day, like my mother’s pumpkins.
Are you a people person or a person who avoids people? Why?