Solitude: The Fluidity of its Meaning

Before reading the “Solitude” chapter in Reclaiming Conversation, the definition of the word solitude that was embedded in my mind was completely wrong. I always imagined that the word simply meant being alone and doing nothing. However, Turkle states, “Solitude doesn’t necessarily mean a lack of activity. You know you are experiencing solitude when what you are doing brings you back to yourself.” Therefore, solitude does not mean alone, it simply means a time where you are aware of yourself and others around you. Clarifying my definition led me to consider moments where I have experienced solitude. I grew up in Cary, North Carolina, but from fifth grade through ninth grade my family moved to India due to my father’s career. I attended the American Embassy School in New Delhi, India. In ninth grade, I went on a trip called Week Without Walls. We traveled to Rishikesh, a small town in the Himalayan mountains. During this time, we had no phones, no computers, or anything electronic besides “brick cell phones” in case of emergencies. On the first three days I was there, we visited a small village in the mountains where the impoverished village families took care of goat farms. We were able to talk with the families and listen to the hardships they face everyday. After reading the solitude chapter, this was a moment that I remember to be a time of solitude. I became aware of how incredibly fortunate I am to have a stable family, education, and an easy access to healthcare. Tears filled my eyes while listening to the young children talk about how they yearned to attend school one day. This is where empathy plays a role in solitude. As human beings, we should be able to empathize with the pain of others and be able to leave our own comfort zones. After reflecting on my experience, I strongly agree with Turkle when she states that solitude does not have to mean a lack of activity. Yes, solitude can be achieved while alone and inactive, but it is not solely achieved by doing that.

Visiting with children who live in a small village of the Himalayas and exploring the rivers in Rishikesh, India.

“Self-reflection makes us vulnerable.” The inspiring people I met in Rishikesh were able to so openly discuss their problems to me, a complete stranger. Personally, I could never imagine opening up to someone so quickly and willingly. This is where self-reflection ties into this experience. Being able to be truthful about your life, problems, and emotions is extremely important. I think most people would agree that keeping things bottled up and not thinking about them is a horrible way to live life. I often convince myself that I am in a constant state of contentment. But, am I really fine? How can I know if I don’t take the time to reflect on myself? Without self-reflection, we run away from our problems. In order to better ourselves and live happily, it is crucial that we take the time to truly understand ourselves.
Solitude and self-reflection are two facets that I consider necessary to live a wholesome life.



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