Solitude, one’s constant companion

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Here’s a day in the life of an individual whose busy lifestyle would not be possible to handle unless they had all the space in their head to themselves.

If ever you’re all by yourself, relish your company while you can.

Most mornings, I am enveloped in the warmth of solitude. I get out of bed at half past five. It is still dark outside; the flat remains deathly quiet. The glow from the neighbours’ Christmas decorations is the only light filtering in through my window. I make myself a pot of coffee and some toast and, for the next hour, I try to write. A single lamp shines at my desk. Often, I will put on music. Joan Baez and Nina Simone have been, of late, constant companions. Save for those two, it is a solitary hour. Sometimes, the words flow; other times, it is a mere trickle.

I write until it is light outside. Then, I set my literary ambitions aside for the day, and call my parents and sister. They are nine thousand miles away, and it is the time of the day when solitude is happily shed for cheery companionship.

Most days are spent in the lab, which is empty but for another graduate student. We work by ourselves, our heads wrapped around airplanes and equations. Occasionally, we pause for a break, walking across to buy steaming cups of coffee from the girl in the red coffee bus. If the weather is nice, we take longer walks to the coffee shop across campus. This being Kansas, one can never tell. After our forays, we each return to our respective research projects. It is a mostly solitary pursuit, studying to be a scientist. I’m not certain this was always the end goal — for a while, I wanted to be an Air Force pilot — but working on being a writer and researcher seems to be shaping up nicely.

On other days, I often teach. For these classes, I have to prepare — several hours of poring through textbooks and notes, examples and explanations. My students are talkative, seemingly more at ease with a graduate student than they may be with a professor. Sometimes too talkative, and I have to appeal for calm. Forty pairs of eyes (and hopefully ears) follow me as I scribble on the chalkboard or talk about forces and moments and free body diagrams. Inevitably, a few will droop shut. For those few, it is a solitary hour.



There is often time for a long run, five or six miles, after class. Sometimes though, I go to the university gym for exercise classes. These classes are loud, pulsing affairs, designed to jolt you. There is music blaring, and the instructor paces the room, screaming encouragement. And yet, the activity is strangely solitary, sweat dripping silently off a dozen brows as we hop benches or lift weights.

On certain evenings, after I’ve cooked dinner — rice, channa, sweet potatoes; pasta from time to time — I end up watching movies or reading. Sometimes they make me laugh, sometimes they leave me heartbroken. I have found I have a penchant for getting my heart broken, girls and books and movies taking turns. But it passes quickly. Occasionally, when I tire of watching Netflix or reading, I log in to social media. I peruse pictures and posts of people I know and people I don’t. It is a curated world, connected yet so disconnected. It is the end of the day, and sometimes the warmth of solitude slips away, and something colder, heavier, takes its place. I wonder if I am mistaking loneliness for solitude.

But the thought does not worry me, or even linger in my mind. It is, perhaps, where the words come from.

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