I'm sitting in PCB having lunch alone when I'm suddenly approached by a concerned "bro." With a look of pity and a drawn-out surfer voice, he asks me, "Like, why are you sitting alone?" He has assumed I am a despondent loner.
In actuality, I happen to enjoy my 30 minutes of solitude a day.
When was the last time you were alone? I mean away from everyone, including your Twitter feed, Facebook groups and text messaging.
If you struggle to remember solitude, you are ironically not alone. We live in the most socially-connected era in history. Consequently, we have become so dependent on the comfort of other people that we are almost afraid to be alone.
We have become needy. For example, I was walking to class the other day and ran into someone I knew. She looked more excited to see me than usual and anxiously asked me if I could wait with her for just five minutes. Apparently her walk-to-the-next class friend was late, and the mere thought of walking to class alone was unquestionable.
The same goes when I am at restaurants with my friends. I don't even know the answer to the age-old question, "Why do girls go to the bathroom in packs?"
Maybe it's because we believe the walk from the table to the bathroom will entice an attack from a deranged killer crouching in wait; only the strength of the estrogen fest can ward him off. Maybe it's because we want to gossip about the guys at the table with us. Either way, we lack the independence to pee alone.
Many of us spend even the few precious moments we may be physically alone scrolling through our social media accounts. To me, this defeats the idea of solitude because you are still connecting to other people.
Maybe the aversion to solitude results from a blurred line between it and the idea of loneliness; the difference is fine and critical. Author and critic Marya Mannes once wrote: "The great omission in American life is solitude; not loneliness, for this is an alienation that thrives most in the midst of crowds, but the zone of time and space free from outside pressure which is the incubator of the spirit."
Mannes is right – something beautiful emerges from solitude. This short time away from others allows you to remove as many distractions and interruptions as you can from your busy day, instead reflecting on what is important to you. This time away from friends gives you the power to find your own identity.
How you choose this alone time can be different for everyone. For me it is the 30-minute drive to work, where I at least feel disconnected from people. It's a healthy time away from my roommate's IQ-sinking reality TV shows, the slamming of doors throughout South Carrick and the ungodly noises coming from the room next door.
For other people, it may be as basic as a walk alone to their next class, or sitting on a park bench and just listening the sounds of nature around them for a brief moment. Whether a short break or a longer sojourn into silence, everyone should take in this "me-time," for the benefit of his or her well-being.
The next time you see a fellow student sitting alone, do not be so quick to pity them. Instead just leave them alone, for they could just be enjoying their scarce few minutes of solitude.
Kaila Curry is a freshman in English. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.