I feel a little silly about how long it’s taken me to get more involved on campus — how long I spent wandering around campus feeling sorry for myself and wondering why I felt so disjointed, so much like the odd man out. Now, I’m amazed that I thought it was just going to happen on its own without any effort on my part. But think about it — it’s just a question of logic.
Where am I more likely to meet people who like reading and writing and talking about old books or movies: sulking alone at the Marketplace watching “The Office” on my computer, or sitting in on a guest lecture by Irish author Mary Morrissey in Tucker Hall surrounded by a room full of potential English majors?
It happened on a Friday night. I’d planned to attend a reading from Morrissey’s novel, “Mother of Pearl,” because I’d enjoyed her lecture — and also because it was the best excuse I’d found since Convocation to wear a dress and put on a little makeup. I brought my laptop to Aromas beforehand, thinking I’d write a little bit and indulge in an attempt to act über-literary. I had learned a little bit about Morrissey’s writing style from her guest lecture a few hours earlier, and I wanted to put some of her tips into practice.
Of course, as is always the case when I try to write in cafes, I got distracted. I spent a good 20 minutes watching an amorous young couple sharing one huge plate of salad — they used the same fork, sharing it between the two of them. I love people-watching; it’s an activity best accomplished while alone.
I was the first to arrive at the theater. I figured I’d try for even more bookishness and whip out my laptop to write while waiting for Morrissey to appear.
By the time the small auditorium was filled to about one-third capacity, I noticed it was generally populated by the girls whom I’d seen at the author’s lecture several hours ago. A cluster of them sat behind me and my trusty Dell. I continued tapping away on my keyboard, paying no attention until I heard one of them speak:
“I saw ‘The Red Shoes’ last night. You know; that old movie about the ballet dancer? I forgot how incredibly sad that movie is!”
Her classmate interrupted her.
“Can someone tell me what the name of the woman from ‘Psycho’ was? I’ve been trying to think of her name all day and I can’t. Do you remember it?”
“Janet Leigh,” I thought immediately.
“Tippi Hedren, wasn’t it?”
“No, that’s ‘The Birds.’ Come on, think hard.”
“I was never much of a Hitchcock fan. I’m more of a Cary Grant, Jimmy Stewart girl.”
“It’s going to bother me all night if I don’t figure it out.”
I turned around slowly in my seat, my fingers digging into the wooden backing. I gazed at the two girls as if they weren’t quite real, a mirage.
“Are you talking about Janet Leigh?”
One of them smacked her forehead. “Janet Leigh! Thank you.”
After the reading, the three of us congregated at Aromas again. We sat and drank coffee smoothies and ate biscotti until closing. By the end of the Jens Lekman concert the next day (we’d discovered a unifying love of the Swedish crooner), we were friends on Facebook and making future plans. It was the first weekend I stayed out into the early hours of the morning with no partying, pretending or self-consciousness involved.
Today, I’m on my own again, but it’s a different sort of solitude — a happy, comfortable, voluntary solitude. There’s a huge difference between constantly finding yourself alone by default and choosing to be on your own. While the former can feel like a prison of your own making, the latter is remarkably liberating Strangely enough, this sort of solitude can only come from having at least a small circle of friends in your life.
College is about finding out what you need in life to survive contentedly, but it’s a balancing act. What I’ve discovered thus far is that while I like having my own space in the world, I can’t survive alone — a much harder lesson than you would think.
_Zoe Speas is a Confusion Corner columnist. She’s happy to not order s’mores for one at Aromas anymore._