Eat toast… alone
Ashton Weber | Tuesday, August 27, 2019
The preface of Michelle Obama’s memoir includes an anecdote about life after the White House that centers around the line, “I ate my toast in the dark, feeling alone in the best possible way.”
I may not have any toast, but I’m currently connecting with Mrs. Obama’s sentiment on a spiritual level. It’s 11:30 p.m. and I’m sitting unaccompanied on the rooftop of a hostel in Portland. Up here, I’m encircled by trees, twinkly lights and empty wooden tables. Music from the surrounding nightclubs drifts through the air, followed by euphoric laughter and the occasional, “LET’S GOOO!” of a DJ. Amid the hustle and bustle, I feel completely content.
Alone in the best possible way.
As someone who consistently scores 93% extroversion on online personality quizzes, I’m naturally uncomfortable with solitude. In the past, I would’ve been up here with major FOMO, probably peering over the edge of the rooftop, longing for companionship or instead retreating down the elevator to avoid the silence. Perhaps I would’ve stayed in my bunk and watched Netflix instead of ever venturing up here, opting to forge e-connections with characters rather than seeking an individual adventure.
However, back then, I hadn’t experienced freshman year. I was still under the impression that it was possible to define yourself by the things you did and the people you knew instead of uncovering an individual identity. I believed that I could surround myself with others and hide from myself and it would be enough to keep me happy.
Spoiler alert: it wasn’t. Freshman year hit me like a pound (or a hundred) of emotional and mental bricks. I had to come to terms with the fact that being your own person is okay and that maybe huge, surface-level friend “squads” aren’t all they’re cracked up to be. Maybe the most important friend you can make in college is yourself. After all, you’re the only one who will go everywhere with you after graduation.
As the oldest of seven, I’ve never had to be alone. I’ve always had people around me and a family identity to cling to. But when I moved into Flaherty Hall last year, my family didn’t come with me. And neither did the identity that I was assigned by everyone who knew them. Because, well, nobody here knew them. I had to start fresh and define myself.
So, what did I do? Immediately, I found a new “family.” I became part of a massive group of loosely connected friends and adopted that mega-squad as my college identity. Until, eventually, I had to come to terms with the fact that the real Ashton, that sneaky 7% introvert, was unfulfilled, and she was making it impossible to assimilate.
I took a few steps back from the group and finished the year feeling lonely. I came in with this perception that the first year of college is amazing and you walk out with a spouse, an entire wedding party and the godparents of your children. It was amazing, but I walked out with only a handful of solid friends — a male soul-sister, the best random roommate ever and some crazy guys who have become my brothers.
It’s been a long process, but this summer, I’ve come to include myself on my list of friends.
That’s because this summer, I’ve been living alone.
I’m in Seattle for a two-month internship and, through a series of spontaneous decisions, I have been getting to know myself. A few weeks ago, I took a walk around the city at night and ended up sneaking my way into a Lizzo concert. Today, I thought it would be fun to take a bus to Portland and book a bunk in a random hostel. I’ve explored alone, I regularly eat meals alone, I’ve mastered city navigation alone and — much to my surprise — I’ve enjoyed my company.
Spending a summer with none other than me, myself and I has made me more comfortable and confident focusing on my own happiness and I am prepared to place less pressure on myself to please others when I get back to campus. If I could go back in time, I would urge my freshman self to take more moments to enjoy some metaphorical toast in solitude instead of trying to fit the mold of others.
This year, I resolve to claim adventurous alone time. We need others to survive, but sometimes we just need to be by ourselves, so why not make individuality enjoyable?
I have plans to venture solo to dinner at South Dining Hall, into the freshman student section and maybe even to karaoke night at Legends. By spending quality time alone, I hope to become more perceptive of my feelings and the world around me.
Check back here every 2 weeks to hear what’s going down in Ashtown!
Ashton Weber is a sophomore with lots of opinions. She is majoring in economics and Film, Television and Theatre with a minor in Journalism, Ethics and Democracy. Making new friends is one of her favorite things, so feel free to contact her at [email protected] or @awebz01 on Twitter.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.