29 October 2011

loneliness v. solitude (2011)

I can see why Andy stayed. I miss everyone.

Writer Henri Nouwen wrote that everyone exists on a series of continua, one of which is the continuum between solitude and loneliness. Every human being is, essentially, alone. We're locked up in our skulls and in our ribcages, where no other human being can ever truly reach us. I can tell you what I am thinking, but you cannot read my mind--and I can never know what it is like to be you, what it is like to suffer the way you suffer, or rejoice the way you rejoice. Every human being's sphere of raw experience and consciousness is entirely unique.

When I am experiencing mostly solitude, I am content no matter what my circumstances. I enjoy my long and sometimes aimless walks, picking out the little things, the untold stories, signs of life and death and everything in-between, with open eyes and curious mind. I write, or draw, or sit in my one-room flat drinking tea and reading books. I don't need other people to make me feel better or more in touch with things. I am happy to exist.

When I am experiencing mostly loneliness, I miss all the people I have been blessed to know in my unsettled life. I miss the company of dear friends whom I have had to bid farewell, and may never see again--or at least not for many years. I want to travel back in time:

back to ASIJ, where I will act again in plays, enjoy my challenging classes, socialise with my diverse and ever-entertaining group of friends (who took to me for reasons I still cannot fathom)

back to A&M, where I will walk and bike and sweat in the heat, where I will talk about liturgy and music with my Catholic friends and go to Mass and pray and experience God deeply for the first time in many years--where I will beat back my depression so that it never comes and I will not wantonly scarify myself and lash out at friends who want nothing more than to help

back to Alaska, where I will pray and grow closer to my Godparents and friends, where I will socialise with people my age on a regular basis, where I will climb mountains and breathe deeply of unpolluted air, where I will grow closer to people whom I kept at a distance due to my complicated relationship with Eli at the time, where I will not spend a single second worrying about romance, where I will do better at my daycare job and bond with the children more and act in such a way that no amount of oestrogen-fuelled drama can reach me from my coworkers when there's so much joy to be had in the world and can't they see it when they walk out the front doors and the snowy mountains spread out before them on the horizon

back to Franciscan University, where I will take back my health from ignorance and have the energy to do the things I always wanted to do, where I will break up with Eli before ever going over so that I can enjoy the school and his company as a friend without so much angst and heartbreak--where I will take things slower, work harder in my classes so that I will learn more and do better work, spend more time with the wonderful people that I came to know too late, arrange my schedule properly so that I do end up with a Sacred Music minor and not a wimpy almost-minor, talk and interact with people and professors I was too shy to approach until it was time to leave

and on the feelings go.

I am very glad that I came to Dublin. Even though I have not left the city yet, what I have experienced already has made the trip and the money I have spent completely worth it. And I am not even two months into my twelve month stay.

But I can see why my friend Andy stayed in Steubenville even after his graduation, and now that certain things are happening back at my alma mater (which I will write about later, I am sure), I find myself wishing I had stayed. Just for a little while longer. Just so that I could hug Francine one more time, stay up all night again talking to my Nan, lean on Dr. Smith's paternal care, grin as Dr. Weber sweeps into class with all his delightfully eccentric energy and starts teaching us how to perceive music's skeleton. I would like to work harder on my thesis with Dr. Craig, converse more with Dr. Sunyoger to bridge the gap between the verbal and nonverbal, enjoy the rambling lectures of a certain Dr. Holmes. I'd like to be a punkass kid with Scott and Eric and David again. Make tribbles with MK. Play soprano sax in the pep band because God knows I wouldn't touch my instrument otherwise.

But everything comes to and end, and that is that. When I am moved toward solitude again, I will start living in the now, which is the best and only place to be.



  1. What a beautifully-written and thoughtful post! I'm amazed how so many of your thoughts are similar to mine on this.
    You know, this could be the beginnings of a really great essay. I know the format's not the same, but for some reason that jumped out at me. Just a thought. I miss you! I'm so glad you're enjoying Ireland, and I think you're so awesome for going (even though I miss you).

  2. Very beautifully written my dear. But here's hoping your loneliness turns to solitude very soon. I hate to think of you sad so far away.