Alone in the Crowd

There’s always been something relaxing for me about being alone.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m not antisocial. I like spending time with friends and family just as much as anyone else, and I love the energy that comes from being part of a big crowd, screaming and cheering in chaotic harmony at a sporting event or a concert. But for me, it’s also energizing to be completely on my own, on a walk or in the car or just sitting in my room, with no one but myself and no thoughts but my own to worry about. Alone, I can forget about the things I want to forget about and focus on the things I want to focus on. I can blast music and sing at the top of my lungs without caring what anybody else thinks about it. Alone, I can think, without having to say or do anything to please other people. I am not trying to make any impressions or meet any standards. Alone, I am simply myself. And that is refreshing.

There’s a lot of societal pressure to avoid aloneness. Nobody wants to be left outside of a group: it’s uncomfortable and often embarrassing to be without one. When I moved schools before my freshman year, my greatest fear was aloneness in all its forms. Aloneness in the cafeteria. Aloneness in classes. Aloneness in group projects. Aloneness on Friday nights at football games. Aloneness of any kind terrified me.

It seems as if this emphasis on grouping has permeated not just all of our social interactions but also our mindsets. We judge people in groups, categorizing and typecasting them based on their interests, appearances, and friends. But in reality, humans exist as individuals. We naturally form groups, but at the end of the day, we are all individual people.

I was reminded of this simple fact at the senior retreat as the class of 2016 was forced out of its groups and into that terrifying realm of aloneness. Or, perhaps more accurately, the realm of individuality. It’s somewhat freeing to see my class, my school, and my world as a mix of individual people rather than a grid of walled-in groups. The senior retreat was an opportunity to forget about the grid for 24 hours and see ourselves as the individuals that we are. While I don’t think that the retreat erased all traces of that grid, it certainly helped me to see that the walls which form it are not there because they have to be, and they are not permanent. They are there because they are comfortable, and they are relatively easy to travel through and break down.

Personally, I needed a reminder that people, no matter what block they belong to in our self-constructed grid, are simply people. No one fits neatly into any one category, and no one has only a single facet to their personality. When it comes down to it, there aren’t any “weird people” or “popular people” or “mean people.” There are only people. They’re all wildly different, but they’re all the same in the fact that they are individuals. We don’t need to be afraid of being alone, because we all exist by ourselves anyway. Groups are simply a comfortable way to travel through life. And maybe they would be even more fun if we remembered their transience, their fragility: they are only an amalgamation of individuals.