Reframing Solitude & What It Means To Come Home To Ourselves With Author Déjà Rae
This is a transcription of a conversation between Thought Catalog’s Katee Fletcher and Thought Catalog Books author Déjà Rae as part of Thought Catalog’s Instagram Live interview series. This series is in collaboration with the Collective World Careers Substack, which you can subscribe to here.
Katee: Hi, everybody. Deja should be on any second now. We’re going to be talking today about her poetry collection Come Home To Yourself, which I’ve pinned at the top here. Hi, Deja!
Deja: Hi, how are you?
Katee: Good? How are you?
Deja: I’m doing fabulous. Thank you for having me. I’m excited.
Katee: Yes. So excited to have you. I was just telling everyone joining that we’re going to be talking about your book Come Home To Yourself, which is now available to purchase through Shop Catalog. Yes, have one with me here, too. It’s so beautiful.
Deja: It’s so cute under the light.
Katee: Yes. And it’s pinned at the top with a link to go by it. But yes, so let’s dive in. Maybe just start by telling us a little bit about your journey as a writer, and really how this book just came to life for you?
Deja: Yeah, absolutely. So, I’ve been writing pretty much my whole life ever since I learned how to write. I’ve loved it. But it was always something that was very vulnerable for me. And so I never felt fully comfortable sharing it with other people. And, then you know, 2020 happened, COVID came around, and I lost my job. And so I had so much free time on my hands. And at that time, I was also really going through like, kind of like an awakening process, like a very just deep spiritual enlightening awakening process. And I was writing a lot. And I had shared a piece of my writing with one of my friends at the time. And she just gave me so much encouragement and was like, “Oh, my gosh, this is beautiful. You know, you have to start sharing this with people, you have to.” And so I really just started the Instagram page, Ebb and Flow as just like kind of a creative release at that time. The intention was never to write a bunch of books or to make a career out of it. But just to kind of share my art with the world. So here I am now. Like, what about two and a half years later? And yeah, everything’s grown very organically, really beautifully. So, yeah, I feel very lucky.
Katee: Oh, that’s lovely. I love to hear that. Your book has so many lovely affirmations throughout it that I really enjoyed walking through. It was really easy and uplifting to read which is great to have, especially as we’re entering the depths of winter. But yeah, before diving into the specifics, I wanted to talk through I guess the way this book is structured. It’s sectioned into three parts: We have Truth, Pain, and Abundance. So, why these titles? And why are they placed in this order?
Deja: Yes. So, right before I began writing this book, I really thought to myself, like if I had one message that I wanted to share with everyone, if there was one specific lesson that has impacted my life the most, what would it be? And so I sat with myself, and the answer came to me pretty much immediately. And it was all revolving around finding the wholeness within myself, and really just surrendering to solitude. And so then when structuring the book, the next part was like, okay, so how am I going to structure this? I wanted the flow of the book to reflect a similar flow that I went through when learning this lesson throughout my life.
Katee: Oh, beautiful.
Deja: And so, yeah, so I was, as I was thinking about it, and you know, regardless of what the lesson may be, I knew that it was going to start with truth. I think typically, when we’re going through a season of growth, the first season that we hit is truth. And so this usually looks like coming to hard truths about ourselves, about our patterns, about our beliefs, about things in our life that might not be serving us. And then after we come to this truth, we move on to the next season, which is inevitably pain. So, after we come through to these hard truths, usually it requires some level of action, some level of change. And so change is painful. No, it’s hard. So that usually requires maybe leaving a situation that you previously found comfort in or gaining new healthy habits and being disciplined in them. That can be painful for a bunch of different reasons. And so, I think for a lot of us, sometimes we get stuck in this painful season. But then after the pain comes season three or section three, which is the abundance which is the clarity after the growth process of understanding why you went through what you went through, and just finally finding peace with the journey. And so I sectioned it that way because I really wanted it to reflect a very real experience. And I wanted people to understand that the cycle is just, you know, going to continue and the more that we can allow it to continue naturally, the easier it can become.
Katee: Yeah, totally. I love that. Especially in the beginning there, you mentioned surrendering to solitude, that’s so beautiful.Speaking of which, so let’s just dive on in to this journey that we’re walking through with you. So, the title Come Home To Yourself is really the through line through this whole piece, which I guess makes a very apt title. We talk about, you know, finding happiness and solace and who we are really and truly surrendering to solitude. But also through that, we get these glimpses of setting boundaries, or having different expectations for the people that we have relationships with. Whether that means romantically, friendship-wise, those kinds of things. So, I just wanted to start the interview, specifically there, in first dabbling in the section of truth. So, romantic relationships are mentioned a lot here. And I wanted to ask you, because I found myself thinking about this more and more. Especially in today’s culture, we talk a lot about, like, not settling with the wrong people, right? And really surrendering to solitude and a sense of like, we can be our own rock. So, in your opinion, what is the difference between settling in a relationship? And compromising or finding compromise with someone that you love?
Deja: I love that question. I think that’s a really good question. Um, well, so I think it’s subjective. You know, I think that there’s nuance in it. And I think it depends on everyone’s own preferences in a relationship. So, I would say like one major thing that maybe is a little bit more nuanced, but really check in with yourself, you know? How do you feel? Do you feel secure? Do you feel safe? Do you feel like your needs are being met? Do you feel happy? Do you feel like this person is adding to your life? Do you feel inspired by them? Do you feel like they’re an addition to your life? Because romantic relationships, that’s how it should feel. And that’s not to say that you’re not going to go through turmoil and that there aren’t going to be hard times. But you know, the overall feeling should feel peaceful. And so, I think that’s a huge thing. And another huge thing is, do you feel like yourself? Do you feel like you can be yourself? Do you feel like you’re honoring who you really are? Or do you feel like you have to change yourself? Do you feel like you have to shrink your capacity for love, or, you know, shrink your needs and your desires? And so I think asking those questions to yourself and getting very honest with them. And then I think of a more practical way to answer the question, which I would advise everyone to do is, if you’re single right now, and you potentially want a romantic partner is to create a list, create a list of what you want, and be very specific in that list. And that’s not to say that people are like a list or a bunch of checkboxes, but get clear about what you want. And then after going through that list, highlight the ones that are non-negotiables, that are like, this is something that I’m not willing to compromise on, this is an absolute non-negotiable. And I think the other ones, you know, like, “Okay, this, you know, is maybe something I want, but I’m also willing to compromise on.” And so I think that is also a big difference between compromise and settling, is just really understanding our core values and what we need in a person and not settling for anything less. So really highlighting those and really honoring them. And I’m such an advocate for writing things down. Not only because I’m a writer but because I think it really keeps us accountable. You know, when we fall in love, and we meet someone new, it’s so easy to get carried away and be like, “Oh, they’re perfect and amazing.” And so I think writing it down is so objective and really helps us reference back to what we previously felt and just really keeps us accountable to our own words and our own desires.
Katee: That’s really lovely. And I like the idea there of almost creating this, again, which I guess we’ll probably dive in more and more is just like creating this relationship with ourselves. You know, that notion of accountability. I think that’s really, really important and wonderful. Also, just good to set those boundaries and expectations for the people we have in our lives and hold close to us. Furthermore, on boundary stuff, this whole collection also touches a lot on the power of embracing solitude and these periods of singleness. If we are single right now, what advice do you have for people who are in relationships? I think even friendships sometimes, too, about finding a balance between pouring into the people we have in our lives as much as we pour into ourselves. Where do we find that? That balance?
Deja: Yeah, that’s, I love that. So actually, when you asked that question, it just reminded me on the back of my book, I have this quote, and I think this, that this quote, just like really anchors everything that I believe in, and it says, “Your capacity to love is marked by your capacity to be alone.” And so what that means in the context of this question is, I believe that the more that we pour into ourselves, the more that we’re going to have to give to others. So really, you know, even though we might think like, “Oh, I don’t have as much time to hang out with my friends, or with my significant other, because I have all these things that I have to do on my own.” You know, it doesn’t matter as much about the amount of time that you spend as much as it does the quality of the time. And what I have found is that when I’m really pouring into myself, and I’m making time for myself, so for me, that looks like, you know, really like working out, eating, cooking for myself, journaling, writing, reading my favorite books, just like really spending time doing the things that fulfill me. And when I’m there being very intentional about the way I spend my time, I have so much more to give. Because then when it does come to the weekend, and it’s time to hang out with my friends, I feel like I’m pouring into them. And in terms of romantic relationships, I think that that dynamic is so important. Because if we’re both coming into a relationship where we feel empty, and we’re like, I need you to give me this, I need you to give me this, I need you to give me this, it usually just ends up not working out. And I think if both people rather are enjoying their own solitude, enjoying their time apart, and then coming together and both pouring into each other and focusing on what they can do to make the other person happy, you become a lot more aligned, and the love becomes a lot more balanced. And so I think really by loving ourselves and spending time with ourselves more, we just kind of increase our capacity to pour into other people.
Katee: Yeah, that’s really beautiful. I think you just saw a comment come up that said, fill your cup first. What a beautiful sentiment. Yeah, totally. That’s great. And then going off of that a little bit. So touching on, I think the reason why it’s human condition, right? Like we’re afraid to be alone, we’re afraid to not have a companion and not have a friend. Talk to me a little bit about, especially for someone who has these fears of being lonely, what are ways we can work on like tangible ways to work on becoming our own friend? Pouring into our own cup first? Filling our own cup first? And really enjoying our own company before seeking out that attention in those needs from others?
Deja: So, I think that that can be kind of a two-step process. So first, I think that we need to reframe the way that we look at solitude. And I don’t think that it’s our fault by any means why we typically equate solitude with loneliness. It’s just something that society has taught us from when we’re young, you know, society puts so much emphasis around partnership and having friends and family and romantic relationships and this and that, and not enough emphasis on solitude and how important it is to also have a relationship with ourselves. And so, I think really reframing the way that we look at solitude, because I was thinking about this the other day, and like a very practical sense is, let’s say, it’s like Friday night. And, you know, you don’t really feel like going out. So, you decide to spend the night at home alone. And you put on your favorite show, you know, you’re making your favorite dinner, you’re drinking your favorite wine, and you just feel so good. You’re like this is perfect, like this is exactly what I wanted. But let’s say you know, the same situation, you’re feeling the same way, you’re alone. But rather than cooking dinner at home, you go out to a restaurant, and you go to the movies and watch a movie by yourself. A lot of people don’t want to do the second one, not because they won’t enjoy it, but because of the perception of solitude rather than the actual experience of it. So, for example, in both experiences, you’re probably having a great time and enjoying yourself. But in the second experience, other people are perceiving you to be alone. And so that perception is making you feel lonely. If you’re following me, so it’s like I think if we can reframe the way that we look at it and just being like, hey, being alone? Solitude doesn’t equate with loneliness, I can spend time alone and I can enjoy it. And I can love myself through that. I think that’s a huge first step. And then, I think the second step is just really filling that time with things that you love. You know, if we’re alone and just spending all of our time like, scrolling on TikTok, which I mean, I definitely have done before, but you know, if we’re spending all of our alone time focusing so much on what everyone else is doing, you know, inevitably, we’re going to feel lonely, because we’re focusing on everyone else. So, I would just really urge people that when you do have alone time, like, really, really like enjoy it, like really focus on yourself, focus on the things that you like to do, you know, make that time really, really useful. Read a book, listen to a podcast, go on a walk, like work out, you know, just do whatever makes you feel good. And you’re gonna really start almost becoming addicted to your solitude. Like, “Oh my gosh, like, I need some alone time, I need this. I just want to be by myself.” And that’s really beautiful, too, when you start to really see how it’s positively affecting your life.
Katee: Yeah, that’s really beautiful. And I think I like harkening back to what you were saying before, it’s almost like the more time we spend with ourselves, right? The more we end up finding other things that we love, because we have more time to search for them. Which is really cool. And I love thinking about, like reframing solitude, like, really, what does that mean,in the ways that we feel it, but also the way that it’s perceived by society, and how that makes us feel about it. That’s really fascinating. And a great way to approach it. So, that’s awesome. So following up with that, I think, another big section of this book, honestly, I guess just the through line of the whole piece is centered around really letting ourselves become our most authentic, free versions of ourselves. And I guess I wanted to talk about, for people who are feeling low down, or maybe just starting out on their self-love journey and not entirely sure on the first steps to take to get to this place that we view as being like, “Oh, I’m so comfortable in being alone. I’m so I love myself, I love, I’m confident, all these things.” What’s your advice on the first steps for someone to take when they’re trying to get in touch with themselves and their intuition, and truly set themselves free authentically?
Deja: Mmhmm. Yeah, so, a few things. Like, one, kind of going back to what I was saying earlier, just really honoring that alone time and using it to do things that you love, but also allowing yourself to feel those heavy emotions. You know, I think sometimes when we’re feeling these heavy things, we’re like, “oh, we shouldn’t feel this, we shouldn’t feel that,” and we’re kind of like tricking ourselves out of it. But if being alone makes you comfortable, allow yourself to feel that, you know? Really allow yourself to process the emotion and feel the emotion because once you do, you’re going to realize it’s so much lighter the next day. You feel so much lighter the next day.
Deja: What makes us feel sometimes so burdened by–and just feel like things are so heavy–is because we’re not letting our emotions have any release. And so if you are just kind of starting out, allow yourself to come to those hard truths. Give yourself permission to really feel it. And after that, you know, just really be intentional with your time and be very aware. So, like, I think one thing that’s hard for a lot of us is to decipher between anxiety and intuition. So we’ll be like, “I don’t know what’s anxiety, I don’t know what’s intuition.” And I think the thing that I’ve found is that intuition usually feels calming. It usually kind of feels peaceful, like a very gentle pat on the back in the right direction. Whereas anxiety can feel very overwhelming; it feels very accusatory, very defensive. And so really understanding what is your anxiety and what’s your intuition. And when you do find your intuition, when you just drop into that, take time to, especially in the mornings–the mornings are a great time to listen to yourself, to go deep in–so before you get on your phone in the morning and start checking emails and all of that, just take time. Meditate if you like to do that. Do some guided meditations if that’s what you want. Write in a journal. Really document the things that make you feel good, and just keep repeating them.
Katee: Yeah, no, that’s really wonderful. And it brings me back, too, to the whole society’s standards, like not letting us feel these heavy emotions or feeling like they’re too much or something. It reminds me again of what you were saying about the way society makes us feel like you have to be in a certain box or feel a certain way. Which leads me to this lovely point in your book where, on pages 115 and 116, we get these really incredible quotes that really speak to that directly. The first one being: “It is better to be judged for who you are than to linger inside a body that doesn’t feel like yours.” And the second one, I’m paraphrasing this one a little bit more, but it says “The world teaches us that we must tick one box, we must fit into one category, subscribe to one religion, pursue one career, but you can be it all.” And A, I just think those are beautiful, and I find them to feel very liberating. Just really being who you are and embracing all that life has. But I wanted to talk to you a bit more about when looking at society, how you personally set boundaries and unsubscribe to these societal standards. And then, what would your advice be for someone who is looking to do the same?
Deja: Yeah, well, thank you by the way. I’m glad that’s–I’m glad that you enjoyed those pieces. So, as far as boundaries go, I think nothing should cost you your peace of mind. So, that’s kind of what I put as my biggest priority as my peace of mind. And so, you really have to think about, are the people you’re sounded by, are they draining your peace of mind? Are the environments that you’re lingering in? Or the job that you have, or this or that? That’s not to say that you should just walk away from everything and everyone that causes you discomfort, because I think that there’s a difference between discomfort and a lack of peace. Just really understand what is compromising your peace and then setting those clear boundaries to not to continue to interact with those environments and those people. Of course, you know, I’m making it sound a lot easier than it is. It’s a process of letting go and, you know, sometimes we find ourselves right back in the situation and we have to let go again. We find ourselves back, so it’s a cycle, you know? It’s an ebb and flow cycle.
Katee: Love it.
Deja: Right? It always sounds so corny, but it’s just so, like, applicable to everything. It’s true. Just really honoring your boundaries and understanding what you want and what you don’t want. And then, as far as societal standards, it’s really interesting, because we grow up–we’re like being conditioned and we don’t even realize it. And then we become an adult and we have these opinions and these beliefs and these perspectives and we’re like, “Wait, is this actually what I think, or is this just what I’ve been taught to think?”
Deja: And so, I think the 20s are such an amazing time to figure that out, and to really figure out, you know, is this my belief or is this just the belief that was taught to me? And I think that just comes from learning about yourself and understanding who you are and what you like. With societal standards, standards aren’t a bad thing. If you feel like you’re in line with what society advocates for, then that’s beautiful. But if you feel like, “Hey, this doesn’t really resonate with me,” then don’t force yourself to fit in that box. You can be both. That’s why I write in that passage, too, about “you can be both” is we feel this pressure to pick one career, pick one type of person you want to be, and to kind of fit this category where we don’t have to. So, for example, I’m an author, I’m a writer–poetry–but what people might not know is I’m also a full-time data analyst, which seems, like, so opposite.
Katee: That’s super cool.
Deja: Yeah, thank you. And it is very opposite. But at the same time, those things really complement one another in different ways, and I think when we allow ourselves to fully express ourselves and really dive into everything that we love, we come to find out that all of the things we love, as different as they may be, they actually end up complementing one another. Just really honoring what you love and not caring so much about what people think or what’s trending or what’s not going to make money, or what’s going to make money, just really honoring who you are and what you love and pushing forward with it.
Katee: Yeah, that’s awesome. There were parts of this book that really reminded me of some things my mother raised me to believe. One of them was the common quote, “knowledge is power,” which is really reminding me of what you’re saying right now. Just really believing in what you love and seeing where that takes you and how that can lead into other things and almost make them better if you allow them to intersect and coalesce. That was really lovely.
Deja: Thank you.
Katee: So, something we’ve kept coming back to and kind of touched on a little bit throughout this is just checking in on ourselves and making sure that we’re living our authentic truth. For you, what does checking in with yourself mean or look like, and how frequently should we be doing this along our self-love journey?
Deja: I guess the frequency of self-check-ins really just depends on the person and your season of life. So what I would say is for me, when I’m in a really busy season of life and I know I have a lot on my plate or when I know I’m about to go into a really busy season of life, I know that I have to make daily check-ins with myself. Once, twice, three times a day. Because the more we’re able to do that, the more effective we actually are in our everyday lives. And so, I think the frequency really just depends, but if you’re going throughout your day and you just feel like you’re running a rat race going from one thing to the next and one thing to the next, and then you finally get home and you’re like, “Oh my gosh, I’m exhausted,” that’s probably a sign that you need to also just take time to yourself. Because that time, even if it’s just 10 minutes in the morning, that time is so crucial. And it’s crazy how little we give to prioritize our self-care and then how much time we’ll give to the things that don’t fulfill us. So, if you can just be disciplined, and take, you know, 10 minutes every morning, for example, and set your intentions for the day, or write affirmations, or journal, or meditate, or pray, or stretch, whatever makes you feel good, if you can really be disciplined and do that every single day, every morning for 10 minutes when you wake up and 10 minutes before you go to bed, I promise you that you are going to see the tangible effects throughout your daily life. You’re going to start waking up with more energy, you’re going to feel more positive, you’re going to have more positive thought patterns. Because when we wake up and go to bed, those are very crucial periods in our day when our brain is at a certain capacity and is operating at a certain capacity where we can really get in touch with our subconscious. So during those moments, if we’re being really intentional about how we’re thinking and how we’re feeling, it has such a huge impact. Even if it only seems like such a short amount of time, it has such a huge impact. So I would really would just advise to start small. I think sometimes the spiritual journey and awakening journey can feel very daunting like, “Oh my gosh, where do I even begin? Do I need to reinvent myself? Do I need to delete my social media and quit my job?” No. It doesn’t have to be so dramatic. It can really just start in one small habit every single day and you can eventually build it up. And you’ll get to the end. And, once you start seeing the real effects, that’s when you almost start becoming addicted to it. You’re like, “Wow this is really, really helping me.” So, I would just advise whatever makes you feel good, create time for that and honor it and be disciplined in it. Discipline is a really big thing. I know it’s hard, but it’s worth it.
Katee: Yeah, that’s really beautiful. I love that. It makes it really easy I think to dive in to, too. Like, it doesn’t have to be this big, daunting, looming thing. It can be small things that we try each day.
Katee: As we come to the end of our time here together, I feel like it flew by.
Deja: It did! It went by so fast.
Katee: I wanted to turn it to anyone listening right now, if anyone has any questions for Deja that we can talk through, feel free to drop them in. I can scroll back too and see if anyone has dropped anything in here. I know throughout the live, I’ve seen a lot of love and everyone got your book. Yeah, someone commented, “I need this book!”
Deja: Aw, thank you, guys. That means so much to me.
Katee: I know I saw some questions earlier but so many people dropped in, I don’t know if I’m going to be able to find them.
Deja: Well, in the meantime, I will say this. Truthfully, what I wrote in this book is such a testament to why I’m even here today like speaking with you. So everyone who is listening, I’ve been following Thought Catalog since I was probably 13 or 14 years old. Absolutely obsessed. Tumblr days, I still go on Tumblr every day, I love Tumblr. But I was such a die-hard Thought Catalog girl and to now be sitting here interviewing and having a book published under Thought Catalog Books is just so surreal. And I genuinely think I would not be here if I did not learn the lessons that are in this book. And that’s not even to promote the book, genuinely, it’s really just amazing. When you really just have discipline and honor yourself and you honor who you are, what comes at the end of it is just so worth it. When you look back and you understand the journey. You just have so much love and reverence for it.
Katee: I love that.
Deja: Oh, thank you.
Katee: We’re just so grateful to have your words among our collection of books. There was one question that came through, well a few. The first one being: “What is the best way to detach from someone you love who you know is not giving you the energy you deserve?”
Deja: You guys aren’t gonna like the answer to this one. Cut off all contact. Like, seriously. That’s what is gonna keep you tied to someone. If you know this person is toxic for you. Of course, communicate first. But if you’ve already communicated and you know it’s not going tow ork out, cut off contact. The more you’re dabbling out in the situationships and the maybes, it’s just prolonging your hurt. And your healing is on the other end of it. But if you keep dabbling in it, you’re just going to keep prolonging the pain. You just need to be brave and be disciplined and just cut it off, unfortunately. It’s hard but.
Katee: It’s a hard truth we have to work through.
Deja: Yes, it is a hard truth.
Katee: Well, I think tonight we’ll wrap up with this one passage I wanted to read on page 127 of Come Home To Yourself, a passage that really resonated with me. It goes like this: “Romanticize your life. Fall in love with it. Fall in love with the small things, the seemingly insignificant things. Fall in love with exercising in the morning and making dinner every night. Fall in love with every person you meet and every sight you see. Fall in love with the way birds sing and the way plants grow. Fall in love with your daily walks, with your favorite books, your best recipes. Fall in love with your errands, fall in love with your routine. Find love in every person, find love in every single thing.” So beautiful. Yes. Fantastic. Wonderful, Deja. Well, you’ve left us with some beautiful advice on easy, tangible ways we can just become better, authentic versions of ourselves. Thank you so much for your time tonight. I had such a blast talking with you. I’d honestly talk to you even more.
Deja: Thank you so much. Thank you for having me. Thanks for everyone watching. This has been so fun.
Katee: Great. Great, guys. And once again, the book is Come Home To Yourself. Go read. Wonderful. Well, have a good night, Deja.
Deja: Bye, guys.
Katee: Bye, everyone.
Come Home To Yourself is available for order now on Shop Catalog.
*This interview has been condensed from its original version for brevity and clarity.*