I still remember in high school, where I used to be bone-crushingly embarrassed when I was alone– sitting alone in the bus, working alone in a group project, spending lunch eating quietly by myself. I hated it. Everyone moved in cliques and I was so jealous that I never seemed to belong to any. I had a few friends here and there, but that was it.
In college, I still felt the same at first, but something was slowly changing. By my senior year, I openly joked to my friends about being a hermit and suddenly, being alone was a relief. After I’ve graduated college, these feelings only have intensified. I turned down an invitation to hang out, saying vaguely “I am busy this weekend.” If I was telling the whole truth, it should have read, “I am busy doing nothing this weekend.” In fact, if I am not that lazy, I will go out to dinner by myself at a sit-down restaurant– not a fast-food restaurant. I like eating alone, too.
Two weeks ago, one of my friends visited me. In outward appearance, we appear to have the same opinions, but we reach them in very different manners, so we often disagree. We also perceive things in markedly different manners, so we both misunderstand and offend each other, not infrequently, as well. We sat in front of the Lincoln Memorial overlooking the Reflecting Pool late at night, just talking about our personalities and somehow tears started to stream down my face. I willed myself not to sob, just let the tears run, and I fell silent from the effort, and I started to reflect.
No one knows the full Michelle, no one will probably ever know the full me.
While I was reflecting on my personality, my friend kept interrupting me and asking me about my life, like how I liked DC and what about my job, etc. I remained stoically silent for a few moments before asking him more than a few times, “Are you uncomfortable with silence?”
In one of my semesters at college, I took a political science course, in which the professor would not force others to speak, but would let the conversation naturally lapse to silence at times. One of the students eventually asked him about it, and he gave a small smile and said as he was raised by a Quaker community, silence was natural to him. It was comfortable for him.
While talking with my friend late at night, I remembered that again. I remembered the sense of wonder and respect for my professor and his ability to savor the silence, to use it to think and not to worry about what others were thinking. I also remembered the deep sense of self I had developed at college, and I realized that I am who I am, and I’ve since accepted it. I don’t like large groups, I can’t go out for more than a few hours without getting tired, I like eating alone, and I like laughing in empty rooms. I like being alone.
I don’t care if no one ever knows the full Michelle. Having my friends’ and family’s support is enough even if they don’t know all the worries and challenges I am facing. Maybe someday I can find someone who I can share all of my feelings with, all the darkness, all the light, and everything in between. Maybe not. All I know for now is that– I like being alone; I am alone.