I haven’t spoken to anyone in three days.
Not really on purpose, but I’m okay with it anyway.
When I first moved into an apartment alone, I kept music or a movie playing in the background all the time to prevent myself from feeling lonely. Until a furious Florida thunderstorm knocked out my electricity one night. I lit candles and grabbed a book, suddenly plunged into total silence. After a few hours, I realized something.
It was glorious.
A few years ago such a scene would have seemed impossible. My entire life was surrounded by people; family, friends, roommates, there was always someone close by. When I decided to go on my first solo vacation, just out of college and freshly singled, I was thrilled by the idea of being totally by myself for the first time. I could do whatever I wanted whenever I wanted and no one could stop me-no one would even know! I traipsed out of the JFK terminal and into the Big Apple like I owned the place, went straight to a bar and even got the cute bartender’s phone number before the night was over.
Then the loneliness set in.
Crowds of people surrounded me, talking and laughing and enjoying each others company, while I sat with only my own thoughts. They were turning darker by the minute. Memories haunted my mind when the distraction of others were removed.
Every decision I had to make seemed monumental and all of my decisions afterwards seemed wrong. All I could think about were my flaws, how I must look to everyone around me. How could I possibly go get dinner on my own? I was miserable and lonely, suddenly longing for nothing more than a hug.
Our lives are usually so full of errands and phone calls and emails and people and noise, that the contrast to being alone is shockingly drastic.
Solitude and silence expose us to ourselves.
When there are suddenly no distractions protecting us, truth can creep up and sometimes it hurts.
Being completely alone can be terrifying. It makes us feel vulnerable and raw. But sometimes it’s also exactly what we need.To embrace solitude and face ourselves can give us space and insight to overcome our weaknesses, recognize our strengths, heal old wounds and maybe even love who we are.
Knowing ourselves really and truly is the first step to understanding others. Solitude gives us the focus we need to see ourselves for what we are.
Once I allowed myself to just be and looked at myself for exactly what I am, solitude became liberating.
For me, solitude means:
dancing while I brush my teeth
solo concerts in the kitchen
cracking up at things no one else would get
rare mid-afternoon naps to the sound of rain on the windows
the scratch of lead on paper while words pour from somewhere deep inside me, needing to be released but not heard out loud, not lost to the temporary realm of verbal communication.
laughing and crying and singing and thinking and being completely and absolutely myself…The me that other people never see.
There is a tremendous loudness in silence. In the silence of solitude, we can hear the sound of life, our own life and others. It hums and echoes around us all the time, if we stop and listen closely. We find that kind of quiet only when we’re alone and it can be pretty powerful. It’s taught me more than I would have imagined about life, love, money, friendship, loneliness, fear and most significantly, myself.
Solitude is silence.
Solitude for most of us is a rare treat in the constant constant-ness of life. But whether it’s three days of alone time, or those five minutes just before we drift off to sleep, embrace the endless sounds of silence in solitude.
Author: Gabriella Sweezey
Apprentice Editor: Jaimee Guenther/Editor: Renée Picard