Accepting solitude

Tiara Felder

After the first day of classes this semester, I went to The Grille to eat lunch with my roommate and friend, Amanda.  After we paid for our food, we sat down on the comfortable couches in the corner to eat and talk like we usually do when we go there, but after a few moments I was paying more attention to a stranger than I was to my friend or my food.

Less than five feet away from us, a guy was sitting alone at a table eating his meal, and it didn’t seem like he was waiting on anyone.  I know for some people, eating alone or seeing someone eat alone isn’t a big deal at all, but it is for me.  When I see people sitting at a table by themselves, I automatically assume that they are shy or introverted, and are only eating alone because they don’t have anyone else to eat with.  I assume that they spend the majority of their time alone and would prefer to have more companions to fill their free time with, but as I watched this young gentleman eat his meal, he was very clearly content. 

As he sat at his table, I noticed that he looked completely comfortable and at peace.  He wasn’t looking around the room awkwardly or nervously.  He wasn’t burying himself into his iPhone.  In fact, he only pulled it out once.  He wasn’t rushing to eat his meal and get out of there.  He was taking his time.  He was sitting alone like it was his choice, and I think that it probably was.

So what makes it so hard for me to identify with this?  Why could I never imagine eating in public by myself or even going to see a movie alone?  At first, I thought that it was just me and that I simply wasn’t comfortable enough with myself to be alone in a public place where the majority of people are with someone.  After speaking to others about this, though, I realized that it isn’t just me.  Most of the people that I asked agreed and said that they would feel too uncomfortable to go out alone.  Most of them thought they would feel as if everyone else was judging or pitying them, and I felt the same.  In fact, when I saw that guy alone in The Grille, I felt bad for him at first and was debating going over and introducing myself before I realized that he was fine.  Why I felt bad for him, I don’t know. 

There isn’t anything wrong with spending time alone.  We all do it and need it, I think.  But I believe that our culture and society has placed a negative stigma on people who are introverts or who spend larger amounts of time alone.  We are a social generation and to be less social than the average person is seen as a bad thing, but is there really anything wrong with it?  I don’t think so.  I think that a lot of good may come from solitude, like personal reflection, that allows you to get know yourself better than you would if  you are constantly surrounded by others.  So this semester, I am going to try to challenge myself and spend time in public places alone and ignore my texts while I do.  Maybe once I start, it will become easier, and I will find my solitude that I seem to have lost a few years ago.