Thursday, September 10, 2009

solitude vs. loneliness

I live in a house with 43 girls and still manage to feel lonely. How can that be? Sometimes I simply need time to myself, to unwind, to regroup, a characteristic of people who are naturally introverted, and yet, others, I'm all by myself, wishing I had someone for company.
Besides the boy and my freshman year roommate, everyone is still here, but it's almost as if they're used to me not being here. They go through their daily lives without me, and much easier than I do without them. Does that makes sense? I'm not saying, of course, that they've all forgotten about me and now suck at being friends :) because that's so not true. It's just... different, a little more challenging, and I have yet to get used to it. Being pro-actively social, I mean. Finding my place again.
To pick myself up a little bit I'd like to reflect back to one day, about a year and a half ago, when I spent 8 hours wandering through the Parisian streets alone. It took place my second "Marie" visit over the week of my sophomore year spring break.
She had studying to do, French universities were holding exams the following week, and I was feeling confident, a surprise to both of us since my French was beginner-intermediate at best, so she helped me buy tickets and sent me off as I took the 40-minute train ride into Paris.
Exiting the Gare de Lyon, I should have been intimidated, nervous even, though I don't recall any of it. Without a map or any sort of itinerary, only with a French cell phone that was most certainly on it's last leg... I must have been feeling especially optimistic that day.
Through the unfamiliar neighborhoods I made my way over to the peaceful Île-St. Louis. Although mostly residential, I found myself drifting through cute boutiques and shops.
I actually ended up purchasing this bottle of Parisian Olive Oil that I keep preserved at home.
But let's not head back to reality just yet! Walking around the rim of the island I also got a gorgeous view of the Île de la Cité and the flying buttresses of the Notre Dame.
Then it was into a small café where I ordered a café and crêpe au chocolat in the best pseudo-French I could muster. It was such a decadent afternoon treat and I didn't mind dining solo one bit.
(And if you'd like to make a sweet French treat of your own, be my guest, I have the recette for you!)
Afterwards I crossed the bridge back to the left bank at St-Germain. How lovely it is to people watch and explore without any restriction of time or constraint of responsibility.
But alas, even the best of things must sometimes come to an end. I wanted to make sure I made it back to Melun, and Marie, before sunset. I did it too, found my way back to the original station, located my departing gate, and boarded the train as I left my Parisian paradise in blissful solitude.
What a wonderful day that was and certainly always will be. "Our language has widely sensed the two sides of being alone. It is created the word 'loneliness' to express the pain of being alone, and it has created the word 'solitude' to express the glory of being alone." But now that I'm home, now that I don't have to be either, I'd prefer to be neither for a change.

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