Being Alone

Spending so much time with yourself can lead to some very interesting situations and internal conversations. I’ve found myself making songs with the swishing noises of mouthwash before bed, which never fails to ultimately lead to an impromptu bathroom dance party. I’ve walked the long way out of my building so that I could pass more flats and delicately turn my head just so in order to peer into the open doors and judge the furnishings of my fellow Old Age Home neighbors. “Just as I suspected…looks like old people live there.” I sometimes sneak pictures of strange things people wear, or the occasional cute little African baby that everyone the world over adores so much.


Just the other day I had killed another small drain fly, probably the twelfth one that day and it got me thinking…at first I would feel bad about it and the gears inside my head would begin to turn and I would question mortality, my own responsibilities to life and insect killing morality. I would maybe wonder if that gnat felt anything, if it had a family, if it had a thought past food/sleep/reproduction, or if I had the right to end its life. I now find myself squashing gnats as a really entertaining evening activity. I even throw my hands up in victory if I catch it one-handed or with a quickness that seems otherworldly given the slow-moving nature of most of my Nam life. I catch them around the back of the sink without looking and I can sometimes, with a good setup, kill quite a few with one hand flat against the wall.


In America I found drain flies persistently annoying. I know that if I pour bleach in the drains for a few nights and let it sit that soon enough I’ll be gnat free…but a part of me wants them to stay. Sometimes I see them fly by and I don’t even bother them, other times I turn them into little black streaks of dust on my palms. I am their God and they are my followers. I feel like if they did have thoughts they’d see me as a hospitable flatmate that had a responsibility to keep their population at bay. They’d see my actions as just that and not hold anything against me. Maybe that’s why they continue to fly right up to me, or maybe its because they reproduce so fast that they’re never the same gnat I went after the day before and…lets face it…evolution is going to take much longer than the two years we have together to engrain in their tiny little brain-resembling connections of gnat tissue to stay away from the big creature wielding a spatula.


While these conversations may seem crazy from the outside, its just exactly the places my mind wanders when I’m alone for an extended period of time. I’ve always found it quite easy to entertain myself and I find a kind of solace in the fact that I’m able to do it for long periods of time. I remember even as a child being able to do this, just sort of play outside by myself, building stories in my head…perfectly content with existing only in my mind for awhile. There were points in my life where it seemed like a moment alone was the most difficult thing to attain and in those times I adjusted quite well. I’m just as much a social person as well, as evident by my many amazing friends (thought it may seem so, I promise this is not meant to sound conceited). I love sharing things with people, especially things that I feel are representations of how wonderful being alive really is; food, nature, friends, places. It can be hard to switch from one to the other at times though. It seems like so many people are afraid of being alone. Afraid of really finding out who they are. Maybe scared they won’t like what they see or maybe afraid they won’t see anything at all.


I’ve had moments where I felt the same kind of fear, even if at the time I may not have realized it. I remember in college when the suicidal pace of architecture school would come to an abrupt end in the form of holiday break and I would find myself wrist deep in a blob of raw beef at ten o’clock at night. My mom would always get a random phone call from me asking how long you needed to bake chicken for or how many eggs to pounds of beef to make meatballs. It was hard to transition from such an unforgiving schedule to all of a sudden having free time. It was hard to always be surrounded by other people, always having the luxury of meaningless conversation to fill the void, then in a nights notice I would be all alone in my kitchen…and all of the thoughts and feelings I should have been dwelling on, hammering out and processing come bubbling up and I‘d make meatballs. Those meatballs were filled with all the thoughts I had not given the time of day for the past few months. Maybe I could have tried harder to have some alone time during college or maybe that’s just part of the place I was in, guess I’ll never know.


What I do know and what I have experienced quite a bit since joining the Peace Corps and coming to Namibia is that life is much clearer, much less complicated and much more beautiful when you give yourself the time of day. Being alone is so profoundly underrated. I’ve had some of my best moments alone and I’ve really begun to understand myself in a way that I never thought possible. I’ve realized things about myself that were obviously always there but I had never been honest enough with myself to see them. There are of course painful thoughts but these always prove to be, in the end, the ones with the greatest revelations. I’ve always considered myself to be someone who’s in touch with their wants and goals, but now I see that it’s not a trajectory with a destination, it’s a never-ending journey and the only part of this adventure we call life that is truly our own to cherish.

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“Sunset at the Railroad” by PCV Nicholas Baylor Hall. Namibia, 2011.