I believe in solitude.
As an eldest child and my parents’ only one for the first four years of my life, I’ve always been able to entertain myself. I was reading independently during early childhood, and have long appreciated the ability to hole myself up in my room and let read for hours on end. Even in middle school, when my adolescent psyche was constantly telling me to find safety in numbers, I preferred nights by myself reading the latest Harry Potter installment to the middle school dances. This isn’t to say I didn’t have friends—I had and retain a wonderful group of people around me, people who understand, for the most part, my weird tendency to go off on my own. They understand that I’m perfectly happy to stay home on a Saturday night, watching movies or reading or sometimes just pondering.
Most people get lost in the jumble of hormones and humans that is middle school. I am an exception: though I had friends, I didn’t allow their actions to dictate mine; though I went to school dances, I didn’t let them stop me from spending that Friday night how I wanted to. I didn’t and don’t rely on social circles to identify my place in life. I don’t have to make a false representation of myself to anybody, as so many do in order to make ‘friends’ or impress people. My idiosyncratic want to be alone seems to have provided me with a sense of self that many girls don’t have.
After seventh grade, in the very middle of the whirlwind of junior high, I went to camp at Johns Hopkins University to get a jump start on 8th grade algebra. I prepared myself for three weeks of doing math and reading Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, which had been released only days before. I didn’t get along with my classmates very well. They happened to be the girls I was rooming with—the girls I would spend the next three weeks living in close proximity to and was expected to make friends with.
I spent far more time in the hall below ours. One day, about halfway through the first week, I ventured down the stairwell (which acted as an endless gulf between my hall and theirs) to ask if anyone had some spare toothpaste. I wasn’t really looking for toothpaste—I had two tubes in my suitcase. I was consciously seeking out some other people to spend my time with. I met the girls that I would grow to love as sisters and still keep contact with—Emily, Ellen, and Vivian, along with their whole hall of interesting, friendly classmates. Within a day of meeting them I was attending their hall-wide sleepover in the largest dorm—it wasn’t very large and the sleeping arrangements were crushed, but there was something cozy about it. I didn’t ever feel like an intruder or an outsider there; I felt accepted and wanted. Out of the friends I keep contact with from that session of camp, none were on my hall or in my class—all came from downstairs.
My want to be alone has made me into an independent, free-thinking person. I’ve developed a strong sense of self and identity and a confidence that may or may not be deserved. While I don’t claim to be entirely sure of myself, I have a definite advantage. Through solitude I have gained both true friends who accept me as I am and a belief in myself.