Section: Opinion

Solitude can be bliss, yet being alone carries a stigma

Doing activities on one’s own may feel isolating on this small campus, but it has its perks

We all know the experience of walking into a crowded Peirce Hall alone — a look of horror comes across your face as you quickly survey the environment trying to find the group of friends you planned to meet. For the times we don’t plan, our best bet is to find anyone  to sit with at all.

In the midst of college tours I read an article in the newspaper of another small liberal arts college about one student overcoming her anxieties of eating lunch alone in the dining hall. I had a hard time taking this seriously. I didn’t see the problem of solitude, only the benefits. How is it a reflection on you if you happen to be away from your normal cohort of friends at a certain time and place? It is a problem because we’re the cause of this reflection. We impose feelings of insecurity and self-consciousness on ourselves.

To be seen at a meal alone in the midst of a crowded dining hall without friends around you is isolating — perhaps others will think you have no friends. Our base feelings that go back to our early school years resurface, sharply, too.

This anxiety extends beyond the dining hall. Fridays and Saturdays early in the evening entail many group messages between friends breaking down every move about the evening — at some point a group will start north and migrate south, or vice versa. Whose room will everyone stop by before this point and that point? The minutiae are impressive. Clearly, no one wants to party alone.

There’s no place for judgment; anxiety is ubiquitous. We all let it get the best of us — but it becomes a shame when people stop themselves from doing X, Y or Z because they might have to do it alone. Attending a play or movie in the Gund Gallery’s Community Foundation Theater with a friend might be more enjoyable, but why do we let the thought of being seen alone stop us? The real source of this anxiety stems from living on a dynamic campus. Solitude, by nature, is in contrast to Kenyon’s bustling energy. Quiet and aloneness stand out, because anonymity is virtually unattainable here.

If you walk by Wiggin Street Coffee, you’d see it during the day, filled with students sitting alone, working away. Perhaps this is the solution. Solitude is OK if we’re preoccupied with other things, not needing to be in tune with others. In fact, in terms of getting work done, you’re much better off alone — a friendly face can be distracting.

Kenyon students do fear solitude, but this isn’t really a problem, just a reality. We all care about our place on this very small campus, but this campus, no matter how small, is our whole world for most of the year, and in that sense our world feels rather large indeed.

Eve Bromberg ’19 is undeclared from Brooklyn, N.Y. Contact her at bromberge@kenyon.edu.

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