The Starting Line: Looking for Alone Time

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[Meet Margaret, a freshman at Yale. We’ve been checking in with her every week to see what she’s doing, who she’s meeting, and what new college surprises she’s tackling (or freaking out about) as she embarks on the journey we call college. Or as I like to call it, the best thing since Trader Joe’s Honey Greek Yogurt.]

Okay, so I am completely not a hippie. Let me just get that out there. Incense makes me sneeze, middle-of-the-forehead headbands make me look like an awkward boy and I own nothing made of hemp.

All that being said, I really do value the idea of finding inner peace and the feeling of “chillness.” So much so that one of my favorite teachers pegged me as the type who would go off to college and become one of those offbeat Bohemian types. Like Ashley Olsen.

And I clung to that idea—the idea that college would be a time for lots of self-pondering, free of nagging parents and 7 hour school days. I would ideally sit underneath a tree reading Whitman surrounded by perpetually tan Frisbee players and crooning guitar boys singing love songs aimed indirectly at me. And I would feel self-actualized and understand the deeper version of myself and be eternally fulfilled.

Well this little fantasy has turned out to be flat out false.

Instead of having time to myself to ruminate and think, I am constantly surrounded by people. Not that I don’t love people. The opposite is true; I feed off of others’ energies and socialize like I’m paid to do it. My second grade teacher oftentimes had to tell me to do special tasks like washing glue sticks because I would distract people from their work if I sat at the same table with them for too long.

But to be constantly surrounded by people, to be surrounded by the stressed, the tired, the angry, the lovesick, the alcoholic-who-doesn’t-realize-it-yet, the overachiever, the underachiever. . .it can all be a little overwhelming. I mean, where does time to yourself go? Where’s my me time? My alone time? My self-reflection by the tree time? Even when I used to have the time before I went to sleep to think, now that time is filled up with chats with my roommate. And those mind-clearing night walks around my neighborhood? Gone. Every safety video I’ve seen here has told me that my little habit makes me a prime target for rape.

So where does an over-stimulated freshman find time for herself? It’s taken some time but I’ve found a few quiet moments to find my inner peace:

I try to wake up early and eat breakfast. Usually not that many people eat breakfast. In order to ensure that I eat by myself, I make myself look way busier than I actually am. Typically, I’ll open a textbook or a newspaper and pretend to absorb myself in it as people walk by and soak up my solitude.

I take walks inside of campus at night. Okay so this isn’t nearly as good as walking wherever I want, but it’s still nice. And if I see a vacant bench, usually I’ll sit down and do some good thinking there.

I savor my time in the shower. A bit awkward, but showers are a nice little respite of actual alone time. And if you are in a really difficult situation where you need to talk to yourself (. . .it happens to me a lot, you guys, no judging), typically, people can’t hear you over the shower.

I kick my roommates out to the library. Not in a cruel way – more in a “I’m helping you” way. Because usually they’ll say something like “I can’t focus,” and then start talking, and then I casually suggest that the library helps with focusing. It’s okay, my roommates do it to me too.

I hang out in the laundry room. This is actually very peaceful. The whirling of the dryer cycles are kind of hypnotizing. Try it.

College brings about a lot of change and sometimes we all need a moment alone to stop and digest it all. It’s hard to find when you’re constantly surrounded by people, but look for it. It may not be under a tree in the quad, but wherever it is, you’ll be glad you found it.

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