I’m sitting in a Yale dining hall — the only person here — eating a meatball sandwich. These day, I often find myself sitting alone in a room. In coffee shops. In offices. In bookstores. I find myself with moments so still that I pinch myself to make sure I’m not in a Fugue State.
I get the sneaking suspicion that I may be off-rhythm from the rest of the world. I get the feeling that I’m moving across the stage between acts, narrowly missing everyone else in the world. I like to be alone sometimes, but now I find myself without outside interaction in times that I would normally be around friends and coworkers and family.
When you’re alone, it’s easy to get ungrounded from reality — to have extreme emotions and wacky ideas.
I wonder if, before the internet was widely used, if people dealt with being alone a lot better than we do now.
I often go to Twitter just to get feedback from the outside world, only to remember that I don’t particularly like the feedback I get there.
But sometimes when I am around people — especially people I’m not particularly close with — I feel like, if I stop breathing, I’m no different than a tree that sits outside. I’m an artifact of other people’s lives. At least when I’m alone, it’s just me and I know that I matter.
It’s about 6:30 here now, and all the lights are off. I don’t mind. In fact, I don’t turn on the lights when I get to work because 50 lightbulbs aren’t worth their energy for just one person. Maybe someone will see me in the corner and turn on the lights.
I talked to a guy from Comcast on the phone today — Todd — and was on the verge of telling because of the bait-and-switches that company has pulled on me. He tried to appease me by waiving a fee, but he said he could only do it once it’s on my bill. I asked him how I could guarantee that he would do that — how I could make sure he wouldn’t be with Comcast in a week. He laughed. “I have a family to feed. I’ll be here for the next 10 years, at least.” That was depressing. I imagine he was a 45-year-old man who would still be with Comcast by 55, and all he did every day with deal with people like me who simply viewed him as the voice who could lower their cable bill. The way he told me about his family and his future, he didn’t have a choice about being off-rhythm or having a dead-end career. He just had a family to support, and that was about it.
So when I think about people like that, and see my friends and family with kids and boring jobs and this and that, it’s not so bad to be alone. It might not be a choice. It might be unsettling. But it’s the kind of quiet only the luckiest of us are able to find.