Alone Isn’t Lonely

“I think it’s very healthy to spend time alone. You need to know how to be alone and not be defined by another person.”

– Olivia Wilde

I love spending time with my family and friends, I really do. Just hanging out, watching a movie? That’s great. Going out to dinner or just hanging out in the city is fantastic, too. However, there are times when I want nothing more than to be alone. It’s not that I don’t love being around people–I do. But, I also enjoy being by myself. I enjoy being left to my thoughts and observing the world around me at my own pace.

I think it’s refreshing, really. When I’m alone, there are no expectations. I am free to do as much or as little as I please. I think that a lot of people confuse being alone with being lonely. Though certainly you can be alone and lonely, and I have been before, I find the two are not always connected. I’ve been in a room full of people and felt very lonely, and I’ve been in my small apartment, entirely alone and felt completely content.

One of my favorite places to be alone is a bookstore. I think that’s cheating, though–I don’t really feel alone when all around me are characters itching to come alive. But really, winding my way through stacks of books, running my fingers along cracked spines and faded covers, without worrying about whether or not another person is bored and ready to go somewhere else is one of the best things in the world.

I’m also partial to coffee shops. They’re fantastic for watching other people, if you’re into that kind of thing. (I am.) Sometimes, I’ll bring a book, my iPod, or a pen, to give myself something to do with my hands. Sometimes, though, I’ll just sit and watch. Sometimes, I listen. I know it’s rude to eavesdrop, but you hear some great things over coffee.

And then there are the times when sitting in an empty apartment or quiet room with a cup of tea (and maybe playing your favorite music in the background) is all you can do. Those times, I think, are my favorite. The world is often a fast and confusing place, but sitting with a warm cup of tea and nothing but your thoughts to keep you company can slow it down, make it less scary.

While my happiness can certainly be affected by others, I do not want it to be dependent on them alone. I want to be able to find comfort and contentment in myself. I think the first step is being okay with being alone.

I’ll leave you with one of my favorite videos, “How to Be Alone”



What I’ve Learned from 4 Year Olds

There’s a bit of advice I’ve seen floating around the Internet once or twice before:

Spend more time with people over the age of 70 and those under the age of 6.

While I don’t have the opportunity to spend much time with people over the age of 70 (I should look into that), since October of 2010 I’ve spent at least three afternoons a week working as a tutor/assistant in a local Boston preschool. At first, I thought it’d just be a good way to earn my work-study money. How hard could it be working in a preschool?

Well, as it turns out, getting things done in a classroom of 20 kids ages 4 to 5 is actually a lot of work. I’ve found myself facing many challenges and having to think of new ways to handle all manner of situations. As the academic year winds down for me and the topic of our preschool graduation comes up (twice today alone), I find myself thinking back on the time I’ve spent with these children and smiling. While they will most likely not remember me several months from now when they’re off to kindergarten, I will carry with me many memories of them.

When I started working in the school, I never imagined how much you could learn from a person so young. Yet, I’ve learned some very important lessons that I’d do well to remember:

  • You’re never too old to play dress up. Go ahead and put on those ten bead necklaces, your biggest sunglasses, and the silliest hat you can find for a picnic of plastic grapes, cake, and tea. Pretend to be a superhero and save the day. Whomever you choose to be, put all your effort into it.
  • Always find it in yourself to forgive those you consider friends. Whether they knocked over your Lego castle or broke a promise, don’t hold a grudge. Life is too short to spend time fighting with those you care about. Apologize and mean it, and then move on.
  • A hug can solve many problems. Whether you’re having a terrible day, you miss someone, or you’ve got a case of the Mondays, a hug can go a long way. (They’re just as nice on good days, too.)
  • Sometimes, you really don’t want to do anything but draw pictures of zombies, and that’s okay. There are days when the only thing to do is draw yourself facing down an army of the undead. Go with it.

While I find myself sad that the children I’ve watched grow over the past years will soon be moving on, I look forward to meeting new children who have all sorts of things to teach me about life and zombie fighting.

The Beginning

I walked into BU’s School of Education this morning to find myself faced by a countdown: 54 days until graduation! it proclaimed.

Now, I’m a junior, so the countdown doesn’t apply to me. I’ve got about a year and 54 days until graduation. However, in the grand scheme of things, that really isn’t all that long. I’ve already completed five semesters here, but sometimes I still feel like I moved into my freshman dorm just yesterday. How is it possible that, in just a few short weeks, I’ll be completing my third year of college?

I have learned many things in the past few years, and I’ve grown in ways I never expected. It feels odd to compare the person I was at my high school graduation and the person I am now. I find that both the things that have changed and the things that have remained the same pose a striking question: how did I end up where I am?

In The Lord of the Rings, Samwise Gamgee says:

“And we shouldn’t be here at all, if we’d known more about it before we started. But I suppose it’s often that way. The brave things in the old tales and songs, adventures, as I used to call them. I used to think that they were things the wonderful folk of the stories went out and looked for, because they wanted them, because they were exciting and life was a bit dull, a kind of sport, as you might say. But that’s not the way of it with the tales that really mattered, or the ones that stay in the mind. Folk seem to have just landed in them usually – their paths were laid that way, as you put it. But I expect they had lots of chances, like us, of turning back, only they didn’t. And that’s the way of a real tale. Take any one that you’re fond of. You may know, or guess, what kind of a tale it is, happy-ending or sad-ending, but the people in it don’t know. And you don’t want them to.”

I do not know what kind of tale my life is, and I’ve no idea what the ending may be, but much like Bilbo and Frodo, I want to record my experiences. Perhaps it will turn out to be a rather unexpected journey in the end.